What to look for when buying a second hand car

Second hand cars can be a great bargain for people who are shopping for cars but aren’t interested in paying new car prices, taxes, and insurance cover. However, many people are understandably at least a little apprehensive about buying second hand, since one doesn’t know the history of the car and it’s possible to have a number of things go wrong once the car is driven away. That said, if you know what to look for and keep your eyes and ears open, you can increase your chances of driving away with a reliable car while saving thousands of pounds over what you’d have spent if you’d gone with a new vehicle. Here are some tips to keep in mind regarding what to look for when buying a second hand car.

First of all, make sure you are protected from a legal standpoint; the last thing you’ll want to do is buy a car that you thought was the owner’s to sell and find out later that you drove away with someone else’s stolen property. Take a look at the car’s engine plate and make sure the number on the plate matches up with the numbers on the registration documents that go with the car. Make sure there have not been any suspicious changes or evident tampering.

Second, make sure any car you buy is one that you have seen and test driven in person. This might seem like an obvious bit of advice, but it’s all too common to find offers that look too good to be true in the papers or on the internet and get to the point where you’re ready to write a cheque or provide your hard earned cash in hopes to snag a good deal. No deal is worth it if you can’t see and drive the car with your own two hands.

Of course, make sure you’re carrying the proper insurance, and then do what you can to drive the car through a good variety of conditions, including slow urban driving, high speed motorway driving, and hair pin roads. Also make sure the reverse gear is in good and working order.

Next, check out the body of the car. This should only be done in good light, as bumps and dents have a tendency to hide themselves when viewed under torches or in shadows. Keep an eye out for rust, as rust is not worth repairing in most cars and it is the issue that will probably need the most attention in cars more than a few years old. Good places to look for rust include the side sills, beneath doors, close to the front wings, and below bumpers at the front and rear of the vehicle.

Finally, devote most of your time to monitoring the condition of the engine, as this is the life blood of the car. Above all, trust your eyes. If the engine looks dirty, that tells you the car was not looked after, and this makes it doubtful that the owner kept up with scheduled maintenance.

However, that doesn’t mean you should automatically trust a clean looking engine. Check the oil before you start the engine. If it’s deep black, this suggests a lack of regular service, and if it’s mayonnaise in colour, this suggests the head gasket may be leaking, which is something you should regard as an automatic red card disqualification.