When looking to buy a second hand car you should be extra careful and vigilant as purchasing a car from a private sale does not usually come with the reassurance of a warranty.
Used cars have one major advantage over buying a brand new vehicle and that is the price. Used cars, even if only a year or two old are substantially cheaper than new cars. From the moment a vehicle is driven off a dealer’s forecourt the depreciation begins and in the early days the price drop is disproportionate to the vehicles actual wear and tear.
If you are not mechanically minded yourself it is probably a good idea to take someone, preferably a mechanic with you or better still instruct a specialist engineer to examine the vehicle on your behalf. Although this will increase your budget it will not only give you peace of mind but will undoubtedly be money well spent if a serious problem is discovered.
Take your time and do not rush into a purchase just because you think you will lose the sale. Remember there are thousands of used cars out there to choose from.
Decide on your budget and stick to it! Make sure you have included tax, insurance and any accessories you might need on top of the actual cost of the car in your budget. Make sure you are buying the right car for your needs. If it’s a family vehicle you are looking for to ferry the kids around, do not get carried away looking at two seated roadsters. It’s easily done!
Make sure you research thoroughly and buy several magazines and guides from your local newsagent. This will help you have a better understanding of prices and market trends, as you will find thousands of used cars listed.
When viewing any used cars make sure you do it in the daytime preferably at the seller’s home address. Daytime viewings will ensure that any defects to the bodywork are easily noticed and viewing the vehicle at the seller’s home address will give you an idea of how the vehicle has been maintained. If the vendor wants to carry out the transaction elsewhere demand that it is a public place. This is for your own safety, as you do not know who you will be dealing with.
It is quite normal for used cars to have had several prior owners so do not be put of by this, but do check the cars log book and service history carefully making sure the documents are in order and all the dates and records check out.
Carry out a H P I check to verify the cars history. You will be able to determine if the vehicle has any outstanding finance or if it has been stolen. Also this check will determine if the vehicle has been subject to an insurance write off or if the mileage has been altered.
Ask the vendor as many questions as possible about the cars history, especially the reason for sale. That said; do not take any reply as an absolute truth!
Take as long as you want with your inspection
Checking the Interior
Ensure all the electrics, including mirrors; windows and central locking are in good working order. Test the seat belts click into their sockets and retract properly. Check the wear on the foot pedals, as this will give you an indication if the vehicle has covered an excessive amount of miles. Lift any seat blankets, which may be hiding burns and stains. Do not be afraid to check under floor mats and upholstery for rot and corrosion. Feel around for any damp or water residue and when inside have a good sniff for any mould or pet smells, as this is a sure sign there may be stains or damp lurking somewhere.
Look down the sides of the vehicle as some used cars would have suffered the odd bump or two in their time. Check to see if the panels are in line and free from any filer. Make sure there are no irregular gaps between the doors, bonnet and boot. Check the colour match on each panel for signs of a respray. Feel under the wheel arches and seals for signs of rust.
Most used cars will need some money spent on them and normally this will be tires and exhausts. The minimum tyre tread is 1.6mm so check all the tyres have at least this depth and factor replacement costs into your budget if they are near the mark. Inspect the exhaust, and check that it is not noisy or blowing.
Check the engine oil and ensure that it is brown and transparent. Make sure the paintwork in the engine bay matches that of the cars exterior. Check for leaks on hoses and pipes before and after the test drive.
When the engine is started it should idle smoothly. Listen carefully for any irregular rattles or grinding sounds.
The Test Drive
Do not be afraid to ask for a test drive, preferably with you driving the vehicle.
If possible drive the vehicle on a variety of road surfaces so you can feel the cars handling. Check the suspension is solid and the vehicle holds a true line. Listen for any grinding when the steering wheel is at full lock. Once the vehicle is moving listen for any irregular engine noises.
Closing the Deal
Once you are satisfied the vehicle is for you and it has passed the above checks do not be afraid to haggle over the price. Most sellers of used cars are prepared to negotiate over the original asking price. Where possible try to get the seller to include any extras or accessories.
An important point to remember is not to feel pressured into buying a car no matter how good the sales patter is.
If you have any doubts about the purchase then DO NOT BUY as there are many other used cars out there to choose from.