posted 4 years ago

What To Check When Buying A Used Car

Simple checks for used car buyers including the V5C Registration Certificate, mechanical, service history and MOT history.

Simple checks when buying a used vehicle maximise the chance of choosing wisely. These fall into five categories: MOT history, service history, legal history, the V5C Registration Document and a basic mechanical inspection.

Checks When Buying A Used Car: MOT History

MOT history can be traced through paperwork or an online database. Among other things it reveals which inspections it passed, which it failed and advisory items throughout. It is an independent insight into how problematic a vehicle has been. The key for a second-hand buyer is to look for expensive problems on the most recent list of advisories. If the list is extensive the car might not be a wise purchase. If it is short, confirm any work has been completed by looking for a bill among the rest of the paperwork. If the work is outstanding it provides leverage to negotiate a lowered sale price.

Checks When Buying A Used Car: Service History

Service history and repair bills suggest a vehicle has been cared for. Full history means it has been maintained on a time scale recommended by the manufacturer, and part history that it missed a few appointments. Schedules vary but a typical interval is every ten-thousand miles/one year. Check for stamps in the service book -  and the accompanying invoices - to confirm it has been maintained. 

Furthermore, it is important to minimise the risk of buying a clocked car that has its mileage wound back to increase value. The key is to cross reference any stated mileages in the service history with the MOT history (and invoices) Check for logical progression. If MOT mileage in May 2015 is fifty thousand, then a service stamp one month later at forty-nine thousand is suspicious.

Checks When Buying A Used Car: Legal History

The legal history can be checked by a variety of companies for a small fee. Did you know 1 in 3 cars have a hidden past? Some buyers try and sell cars that have been classed as category C or D write-off by hiding its past. If you don’t carry our a history check, you could pay over the odds for an insurance write-off. Services vary but typically confirm that the vehicle has not been: stolen, written-off by its insurer, has a mileage discrepancy or is subject to unpaid finance. 

V5C Registration Document

A V5C registration document contains information about a car. It confirms its: 

registration number, engine size, fuel type, carbon emissions and who the registered keeper is.It is also known as the log book. A stolen car might be accompanied by a counterfeit document so check for a watermark for authenticity. Check every detail reflects the vehicle and that the seller is the person named on 

the document. Blank forms have been stolen from source so if any of these serial numbers BG8229501 – BG9999030 and BI2305501 – BI2800000 are on the document you need to be suspicious.

Checks When Buying A Used Car: Mechanical

Basic mechanical checks require common sense more than specialist knowledge. Look for accident damage such as bent body panels and uneven shut joints (gaps between panels). Check for rust too. Expectations should be consistent with age and value. Also inspect the lights and glass. The engine bay should be free of leaks – as should the underside of a car – so look for fluid of any kind. The exhaust should be fairly quiet as too much noise suggests it leaks. 

Take A Test Drive 

A car should also start easily, cruise in a straight line without pulling on the steering, brake in a straight line, change gear smoothly, and not make inappropriate noises such as clunks. Broken equipment can be expensive to repair so test the: air-conditioning, stereo, electric windows, sunroof, electric mirrors and any other internal powered parts of the car.