How To Buy A Used Car – Checklist

Used Car Buying Guide

Everyone does it at least once in their lives, and sometimes it’s better to buy a used car then a brand new car straight from the factory, as you can safe yourself a lot of money in the long run, but there are many risks to take into account before handing your hard earned cash.

Give Yourself A Budget

Get insurance quotes and check car tax rates before signing on the bottom line, and remember to factor in the cost of any work that might be needed too.

If you’re going to borrow money to buy the car it’s a good idea to get loan quotes before you go out to view any cars.  That way you’ll know what you can afford and will be able to tell whether any finance a dealer offers you is good value or not.

Do Your Homework

You should always check up on the make and model of the used car you are looking at, and read up on its flaws, current market price, and even recommended service intervals so you can question your seller about what has been done to the used car.

I would recommend signing up to a dedicated owners club, and ask them questions on what to look out for when buying X car, as current owners will know exactly what to look for.

You should also run HPI tests on the car to make sure there is no outstanding finance left on the used car, and this should also tell you what may or may not have been previously done to the car, and should sate if the car has not been tampered with (Clocking / Car Cloning / Cut & Shut).


Clocking is the illegal practice of winding back the odometer on a high–mileage car to increase its apparent value and asking price. Every 1,000 miles removed from any car can increases the value substantially.

Car Cloning

Sometimes one car is given the identity of another by replacing the number plates with those from an almost identical vehicle – same make, model and colour.

Cut & Shut

This is when the remains of two or more cars, which have usually been accident–damaged and written off by insurers, are welded together, then illegally given the identity of one of the wrecks.

The cosmetic work is often outstanding, and it’s usually very difficult to spot a ‘cut–and–shut’ from the outside.

For absolute confidence, invest in a Car Data Check to unearth the car’s history.

You should also ask the used car seller to provide as much history on the car as possible, mainly service history, and MOT certificates, as these can show what has been done to the vehicle over its lifetime.


  • If there’s no history then ask why
  • Does it look like there might be a persistent fault that still may not have been fixed?
  • Does the history tell a consistent story


V5C Document

You should insist on seeing the V5 document, as this will show you who the registered owner of the vehicle, and the used car seller should be the person who’s name is referenced on this document. Although if the car has been a part exchange in a used car dealership, this may be the previous owner, but the garage should have sent off to get the car registered to them.

The V5C shows the details of previous keepers too. Why not contact them to find out more about when they owned the car, what work was done and how many miles they covered?

Previous keepers have no vested interest so you should be able to rely on their comments

  • Did they service it regularly?
  • Did they do much mileage in it?
  • Did they have any major servicing work done it?
  • Did they modify the vehicle in any way?


If the car is three years old or more make sure there’s a continuous series of annual MOT ‘certificates’.

If you know the vehicle’s registration number and the document reference on the V5C you can check a vehicle’s MOT status and history (back to 2005) online too.

You can also enquire by telephone.  Contact the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency’s (VOSA’s) MOT status line on 0870 330 0444.

Recorded mileage should increase steadily with age and be consistent with the service record. If it doesn’t then you’ll want to hear a good explanation as to why not.


Yes you should always consider the weather when looking at a car. Never go and view a car in the rain, or even at night, as these can obscure dents and scratches to the paintwork, and dark nights can easily hide any major flaw of any car.

Test Drive

The test drive is your only opportunity to check the car’s general mechanical condition and to find our for sure that it meets all your needs:

  • Is the driving position comfortable?
  • Can you reach/operate all the controls easily?
  • Do the child seats fit?
  • Does the golf bag or pushchair fit in the boot?

Before you hand over any money

  • Agree collection/delivery arrangements
  • Confirm exactly what’s included in the price
  • Confirm any work that the seller has agreed to do
  • Make sure you get a receipt showing vehicle details, price, terms of sale and the seller’s details.

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