The first thing to do is set a budget. If you are looking to take out a loan or get a car on finance you might want to check how much you can borrow first. Once you know what you can spend and set a budget, stick to it! It's very tempting for emotion to take over when you find that car.
Private or Dealer
Expect to pay more for a car from a dealer (hundreds or thousands of pounds more, depending on your budget) but with some legal protections should things go wrong. Buying privately will be cheaper but it is buyer beware. However with the car history checks now available online, buying privately is not as risky as it used to be (we'd recommend a car history check , whomever you buy from). The best approach (private or dealer) is to let the car and its history do the talking.
Check its history
When spending hundreds or thousands of pounds on a car, knowing its history is a must. Nearly half of all used cars has a hidden history *. You can get a full car history check that will tell you if the car has outstanding finance (if it does - the finance company owns the car - not you!), is registered stolen, has been written off or scrapped and more. I'd recommend buying a check for each car you are interested in before visiting (it costs time and money to go an visit a potential buy) and bulk buying these checks works out cheaper.
Know the market
There are now many sites online such as the AA and motors.co.uk that allow you to search and/or buy used cars. Take the time to search around for the cars you are interested in, paying particular notice to age, mileage, service history and price. After a little while you should get a feel for which cars are competitively priced.
Check the paperwork
If you get a check you will be able to check if the car 's paperwork is valid. Pay attention to the V5C (Logbook) and make sure the logbook number matches the check. Do the same for the VIN number (can usually be found by the front windscreen or under the bonnet). Also look through the service history and any MOT certificates they have. Watch out for any gaps, particularly for critical service items such as a cambelt.
Inspect the car thoroughly
Take your time and do this in good light. Be wary if the car has just been washed (still wet) as this can hide damage. Pay attention to the tread on the tyres, keep an eye out for leaky fluids on the road underneath. Watch out for an engine bay that is either very clean or very oily as this may indicate significant problems. If the owner states that something has been recently fixed, ask to see a receipt.
A test drive is crucial. Does it start easily? Does it handle correctly? Is the braking good? Acceleration? Any odd noises? Does it pull to one side? Check for any smoke coming out of the exhaust, particularly white or brown smoke. Try and test drive the car both at low and higher speeds (e.g residential roads and motorway). After the test drive, check under the bonnet for any leaks or strong smells. If the test drive doesn't convince you, it is probably wise to forget that car.
Making the purchase
Be sure to get a receipt for the sale of the car (example), that is the legal proof of ownership (not the logbook). You also want to make sure you receive the green slip from the Logbook to transfer it to you. Be careful dealing with large amounts of cash, particular if you are not at the sellers house. Perhaps use a bank transfer or a bankers draft.
Buying a used car, including from private sellers is a great way to get a quality car at a great price. The key point to remember is check, check and check again. The car history checks are vital as no matter how diligent you are with other checks, you will only know the cars history for sure by using a service such as Car Check 123. Check everything and enjoy your new car. Happy motoring!