The rubber on your tyres may not be the first thing you think of when buying a car, but remember, they are the only thing connecting you to the road. If the tyres are close to balding, you could be left with a bill from anywhere between £200 and £600 for a new set of boots.
Like the aforementioned tyres, brakes are very important, and they need to be in good working order. Test-drive the car and do a few emergency stops to ensure that the brakes not only stop the car, but do so in a confident and true manner. If the car has ABS, check that it works! The wheels shouldn’t lock up under hard braking; if they do then the ABS isn’t working.
Paint may be boring, it may not be very interesting, but it is a massive part of your car, and if you take any pride in it, you’ll want it to be in good condition. Never buy a car in the rain or in the dark, as any paint issues or rust won’t be easily visible. Things like small scratches are often easily fixed, but if you have dings and bumps, then you might want to consider asking for money off.
4. Check Service History
Service histories are a vital part of buying a used car. Without then, your 64,000 mile bargain could actually turn out to be a 120,000 mile disaster, as with a proper service history you can check just how often the car has been serviced and the mileage on each date, so you know it hasn’t been clocked!
5. Tested & Taxed?
If sounds daft, but if you buy a used car without it being tested or taxed, do you really know what you’re getting? Buying a car you don’t know without an MOT is a dangerous business, as you could be left with one hell of a bill for repairs. Tax, especially in today’s climate, is very expensive, so try and haggle your way to at least six months in the deal.
All cars go through periods of needing new parts, but if the clutch is about to go, that’s one expense you really don’t need. A clutch can be particularly expensive, so make sure you test that it isn’t slipping or that it doesn’t feel too hard to push down.
7. Check the Company
The internet is one hell of a resource these days; from Trip Advisor to eBay, there’s thousands of ways of checking on the reputation of almost any business in the UK, so use it! If you’re not convinced that the dealer is a reputable one, go online and search. If there’s been a whole host of unhappy customers, then chances are it’ll be online. Don’t trust them just because they have a nice smile, use your head!
8. Dip the Oil
The engine is the power-plant that will keep your car going; it’s the only thing that gives you power, so it needs to be respected. Get under the bonnet and check the oil levels for yourself. If you’ve never done it before, all you need to do is get a rag, find the dipstick, lift it out of the engine, wipe clean, dip it back in and lift out once more and check that the oil level is somewhere between minimum and maximum. If it’s not, you need to ask yourself why.
9. Exhaust Blowing
Press the throttle, does it sound right? The exhaust note should sound, if it’s a standard car without modification, pure and relatively docile. If it sounds like someone’s fitted and induction kit on it, you’ve either got a blowing exhaust or performance modification under the bonnet.
10. Boy Racer
If you’re not a boy racer, the last thing you want is a car that’s been chavved up or raced. The easiest way to make sure it’s not been put through hell is to check the thread depth on the tyres, the clutch and the mileage. If it’s a performance motor, then it may be worth checking forums for best advice on that particular model, so you know you’re not buying one that’s been trashed.
The car industry has seen a large increase in modifications on standard hatchback cars. They range from induction kits, which replace the standard air box and sound ridiculously loud, to massive exhausts, and if you’re not into that type of thing it’s best to ask the seller if the car is standard.
12. Price Checker
Being naïve about the price of the car you’re looking at can be a shocking move, as the dealer will jump on it. Do your research beforehand by using either one of the several text check services that are available or by visiting parkers.co.uk, who give you a valuation for your vehicle.
13. Insurance Group
This applies more to performance-oriented cars, as you can be seriously stung by the insurance costs if you’ve not checked beforehand. Make sure that the car you’re buying is insurable for your budger. Cars like the Honda Civic Type R are group 17 insurance, and will subsequently cost a fair chunk to cover.
14. Cut & Shut
We’re living in a world full of scam artists, and one of the worst scams in the motoring world is the cut and shut. Basically, they badly weld two cars – front and back – together and sell on as if it was the original car. If this car is involved in a crash, the likelihood is it won’t react as it should, and you and your family could be left seriously injured, if not dead. Check the weld points underneath the rubber seals around the car, if they are inconsistent or seem poorly welded, you may have a cut and shut on your hands and you should ring the authorities.
Does the car drive straight and true, or do you have to point the wheel a few degrees to the right or left to get it to go in a straight line? If it’s the latter, then your tracking might be out, or even worse, the car may have been involved in a crash and never repaired properly.
16. Data Check
Taking a simple data check on the car is a great way of finding out if the car has ever been involved in an accident. It will tell you if the motor has ever been written-off, or if the police are after it. It’s a simple 10-minute phone call to the HPI that could just save you from buying an absolute lemon.
17. Check the VIN
The car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a simple but effective way of checking if the car has been tampered with. The VIN on the chassis should match up with the VIN in the logbook – if it doesn’t, the car may have been tampered with.
18. Wear & Tear
Do the interior plastics and seats match with the mileage? If the car has only done 20,000 miles, you shouldn’t really be seeing signs of wear and tear on the seats or plastics on the dashboard, so bare this in mind when looking at the vehicle.
If the sale is a private one, always buy from the seller’s home. That way, you always have a home address and number if something turns out to be suspect. If you buy from a pub car park,. You haven’t got a leg to stand on if the worst should happen.
The last tip would have to be haggle. We don’t do it enough in the UK, but haggling is one of the best ways to secure a bargain on your new car. Using this technique should hopefully reduce the price of the car and make you feel like you’ve got one over on the dealer or seller.