Tips for buying a secondhand car

Our top tips to make sure you get the car that's right for you. 

Buying a second-hand car can be a great option for those looking to get a vehicle on a budget as cars lose an average of 40% of their value in the first year. However, it can be a minefield of dodgy dealings that could put your hard-earned cash at risk. Here we’ve put together some top tips to make sure you get the car that’s right for you. And if you need help financing your new set of wheels our Personal Loans could help you out.

Test Drive

Make sure you test drive the car for a sustained period, on a few different types of roads. Include roads with faster speed limits, hills (check the handbrake), traffic lights and try an emergency stop (ensure the road is clear) to make sure the car runs well.

It is also worth doing the test drive on a dry day. Once the car has been running for a bit, get out over a dry patch of tarmac and leave the car running. After a few minutes pull away and check that there are no wet patches from under the bottom of the car, which could mean it has a leak.

Make sure you also give the car a complete once over. Check the tread on the tyres and the paint work. Make sure you look at the car in good light (not cloudy or at night), so you are able to check the bodywork of the car hasn’t been modified or been in an accident.

Check the car's history

Always always always check the history of the car. You need to make sure that the car doesn’t have any outstanding finance, hasn’t been previously written off by an insurer or even been stolen. A HPI check will be able to give you peace of mind. It costs £20 but could save you from a loss if you don’t check. The AA also offers comprehensive car data checks which can help to prevent buying a car that has been cloned (different number plates put on a car of the same make or model).

It’s also important to check the MOT history of the car for at least the last few MOTs. This could highlight to you anything which is likely to become an issue in the future and on what timescale. This can be done on the Government's website and will also flag up any advisories (issues that are likely to need repair soon.

Checking the mileage is vital as odometers can be illegally wound back to increase the value of the car. Mileage should increase relatively steadily year on year (average is around 10,000 miles per year). If mileage appears wildly out for the age of the car or there are suspicious periods of low mileage on the MOT record, then think carefully.

Check Costs: Tax, Insurance, Fuel and MOT

Make sure you aren’t surprised with any nasty large sums of money after you’ve bought the car. If you have the registration number or details about the car model and age, then you can enter these on insurance comparison sites to get some quotes. You can calculate the tax rate for your vehicle on the Government’s website. This is based on the CO2 emissions, so you could make a saving long term if you choose a car that has better environmental credentials. You can also work out how much fuel you are likely to need for your car and therefore how much you should budget a month to cover it on the Vehicle Certification Agency website.

Buying a car that is older than three years means you’ll also have to pay for the car’s annual MOT. The standard rate for this is £54.85. That obviously does not include the cost of repairs if the car fails the MOT. It’s good practice to keep a little extra money aside in an account to use if there is a problem with the car. Cars are expensive to fix when things go wrong, so keeping this money aside can help you to avoid a difficult financial situation.

Choose where you buy from carefully

Buying from a car dealership will offer you the most protection. If the car you buy develops a fault that you weren’t aware of at the time of purchase then you should be able to get a refund, repair or replacement. Cars from a dealership will likely cost more but if something goes wrong it could save you money in the long run.

If you are planning on buying from a private buyer, there are still some steps you can take to protect yourself. In this circumstance it is your responsibility to check the car’s condition and history (and it is important that you do). Keep copies of the original advert and make sure you keep visible proof of all correspondence. Make sure you go to the seller’s home to see the car. If they are insisting on a neutral meeting place, then it could be because they don’t want you to know where they live in the event of a problem.

Shop around on the price

Make sure you have a look at how other dealers and private sellers have priced cars of the same model with a similar age and mileage. This could highlight to you any cars that may appear to be cheap but could be of a low cost due to a fault or issue.

Take care with Car Finance

Think carefully before taking out finance on a car. A recent report found that dealers could charge you up to £1000 more than the actual asking price. It’s always a good idea to get loan quotes before going to view a car. This will give you an idea of what is affordable for you and will tell you if the dealership is offering value for money.

Our Personal Loans offer a fair, affordable and secure way to purchase your new car. Borrowing from us will not only keep your money local but it will also mean that you own your car from the start. This is unlike most car finance plans where the car is owned by the finance company until you pay your balance. We have fixed interest rates that don't depend on your credit history and you can repay your loan in a way that suits you, weekly, fortnightly or monthly. We could help you finance your new set of wheels without extra cost or worry! Find out more.

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Posted on
26 April 2019