Motoring Insight Magazine Online


With an array of dealers and private sellers and a tremendous number of classified and regional magazines showcasing hundreds of thousands of adverts, buying a second-hand car is a task which requires intense research, common sense and good planning.

After trawling through thousands of adverts, baffled by the unexcitingly small pictures and shocking spelling mistakes, you’ll probably be more excited to arrange a test drive with the owner. When you do, be sure to inspect the car thoroughly.

Check the tread of the tyres meets the minimum legal requirement of 1.6mm. Look under the seats, and keep your nose clear for any strange smells as a faulty exhaust could prove toxic in the passenger compartment.

Take a deep look under the bonnet before and after the test drive. It is essential for you to determine if there are any water or oils leaks, signs of poor maintenance and general ‘wear and tear’ such as a worn timing ‘cam’ belt needing replacement. Failing to do so could destroy the engine.

One of the most common issues second-hand car owners complain about is ‘dodgy batteries’. It is common for private sellers and dealers to put an old, worn battery in the car and a few weeks later the new owner is powerless when they fail to get up to speed, often having to call out a breakdown service or stop off at Halfords to buy an expensive new battery.

Under the Road Traffic Act, the car must be deemed safe. Ensure all the headlights and rear lamps are working. If the brakes feel too stiff, lax or you discover the stopping distance is unusually greater, walk away. Cracked wing mirrors are also a common problem. Be sure to test every seatbelt in the car and tug the straps to see if they are working.

Does the mileage on the dashboard match the advertised distance travelled? If not, press the seller for why and use this as a bargaining tool to your advantage. One would not buy a house without commissioning a survey first, so for a small fee, you can obtain a vehicle history check, which will show if there is any outstanding finance owed, insurance claims or even if the car is reported as stolen.

While it is not necessary to commission an independent inspection of the vehicle, if you are willing to spare between £142 and £346, the AA and RAC can send an engineer to the car, carrying out hundreds of safety checks and providing a written report.

Under the Sale of Goods Act, the used car you are considering as your next big buy must match its advertised description, with the seller being the rightful owner of the vehicle.

Ultimately, if you sense something is wrong, simply walk away. There are thousands of good cars for sale and following these simple tips will keep you safe and protect you from the pressure tactics dealers and private sellers frequently use.

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