What to check when buying a second-hand car

Use our handy checklist to find out what you should check for when buying a used car. Find out how much your current car is worth before you sell by entering your number plate in the box below!

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Buying a used car checklist

When buying a car there are many things to think about, old or new, sporty or practical, premium or budget. It can become a confusing process until you know what it is that you want. Once you’ve selected your next car, it doesn’t end there, there are a lot of things to check when buying a car, particularly if you’re buying a second-hand car.

Many motorists in the UK opt for a used car to cut costs, which isn’t surprising considering most new cars can lose up to 40% of their value in the first year. Therefore, purchasing a used vehicle can save you a lot of money. However, it can also come with complications, for example, you could end up buying a car with mechanical issues, which is why checking the car before buying is very important. We’ve put together a guide to buying a used car to help reduce the chance of making a costly mistake.

Although buying a second-hand car is a popular option these days to save money, it can come with risks, particularly when buying privately. Below is our buying a second-hand car checklist, full of tips on how to buy a car safely and what to check before you buy.


Research your car

Knowing all about the car you intend to buy is the first step. Understanding the market value and the car’s general depreciation rate should provide you with an idea of how much the car should roughly be worth depending on its condition. This way you will know if you are being overcharged or not, which puts you in a good position to haggle.

Also, make yourself aware of the features that are available with the particular model you are considering so you can be mindful of everything you need to check.

When purchasing a car, make sure to type the number plate into our free car valuation tool to get an accurate price.

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Car history check

A car’s history check includes a number of things including, service history, number of previous owners and whether it has any outstanding finance. Checking the car’s history can indicate how well the car has been treated over the years and can provide a good idea of the car’s condition. If the car has been regularly serviced at a reputable garage and has a low number of previous owners, there is a high chance that the car has been well looked after.

Checking the car has no outstanding finance and has no record of being stolen or written off is important before the deal is made. The last thing any buyer wants is to buy a car to then later have it confiscated for investigation. You can do this by conducting an online vehicle check for a small fee.

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Check the car’s condition

When viewing your potential next car, giving it a thorough check inside and out is important before you strike a deal. Ensuring there are no unmentioned dents and scratches is the easy part, but you need to do more than that. Before you lift the hood or climb inside the car, check the tyres and make sure they are wearing down evenly, check the windows and locks are working properly and take a look underneath the car for any rust or noticeable damage.

The engine is next. Simple checks include checking for rust, leaks or corrosion and checking the oil and water levels. However, it can be a good idea to have a professional check over the car for you if your mechanical knowledge is limited.

Inside the cabin, potential buyers should check the seats and the carpet for general wear and tear and make sure the air-conditioning, radio, lights and any other technology is working, for example, the sat nav. Finally, check the odometer of the car for the mileage. You don’t want to fall victim to a clocked car. We have a full guide on how to spot a clocked car here.

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Check the car’s documentation

Asking the owner for the vehicles’ paperwork will not only provide proof that they are legally able to sell the car, but it also shows that the car is legal to drive. Documents to check include the log book (V5C) and the MOT certificate. You can also check that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the car matches that in the logbook.

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Test drive the car

It is advisable to always test drive a car before purchasing one. Not only does this allow you to see if you like the way the car drives, but it can also give you a chance to check there are no further issues. Listen to sounds the car makes, check the steering, the gears and the brakes to make sure the car is in full working order.

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Test the seller

Don’t be afraid to quiz the seller. You need to know as much about the car as possible. If they can’t answer the questions or they don’t have all the information the owner should have, this could be a warning sign that the car isn’t legally theirs to sell.

Hopefully, these buying second-hand car tips will help to make the process less confusing and stressful. One thing that doesn’t need to be stressful is selling your car. There’s no need to give up your evenings to meet with hagglers and timewasters. Sell your car with webuyanycar.com, the fast and simple car buying service.

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