Buying a used car
Buying a used car is a great way of cutting the cost of your driving as most new cars lose around 40% of their value in the first year. But there are risks so it's important to take your time rather than rush into any deal, and to buy as far as possible with your head rather than your heart.
You can reduce the risk by following these steps:
Private adverts - Once you've seen the advert and you are ready to ring ALWAYS ask "is the car for sale"? A rogue trader may have many cars for sale not just the one you've seen. If he replies "which one?" be suspicious.
Advice – put the phone down walk away
Always arrange to meet at the seller's home. Never arrange to meet elsewhere. The log book (V5) should correspond with the address you meet at. Also ensure the seller actually lives there. (top tip – ask to use their toilet). We have had rogues pretending they live at the address!
Advice – if they won't meet you on your terms walk away
Ask to see all the documents relating to the car. If they say "Log book with DVLA" "Can't find I'll post them on".
Advice – walk away
Always take an expert with you or arrange for an independent inspection.
Advice – if the seller won't allow the car to be checked walk away
Never rely on an MOT certificate as proof the car is OK. The test only checks specific parts of the car on the day tested. Parts could be changed later by a rogue trader. The MOT doesn't give a year's worry free motoring.
Advice – get it checked
If you are keen to buy, write down the name and address of the previous owner given on the log book (V5). Try and contact them and ask about the car's history.
Advice – no log book no buy!
Check the mileage. Look at the service book for date and mileage stamps. The current mileage should be in line with these. Old MOT test certificates give mileage readings. If the milometer is the older analogue not digital style look if the figures are out of line.
Advice – if mileage in doubt walk away
Look at the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate. If the plate looks damaged or tampered with be suspicious. Has it been switched! The car could be stolen or "cut and shut" (2 different cars welded together). Also the engine number on the plate should correspond with the engine number either on the chassis or in the dashboard plate.
Advice – if in doubt walk away
Take a magnet! Place the magnet on the car panels. If it doesn't stick there could be plastic filler under the paint to hide accident damage.
Advice – don't stick, don't buy
Always keep a copy of the advert you see. Always demand a full receipt with the description given and full seller's details.
Advice – if buying privately you only have a "come back" for a proved false description.
Advice – chase the paper? No deal
Every tip given above is linked to actual complaints commonly dealt with. Don't think this happens somewhere else. There are millions of cars for sale every day. Take your time. Even if you are disappointed today you'll be grateful tomorrow. Especially if you end up buying a shed!