Buying a car

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Tips for buying a used car

Buying a used car is always a daunting prospect, especially if you don’t know what to look for.  By following these few simple steps it will prevent you from getting ripped off by a dodgy dealer or a private seller looking to make a quick buck.

Under the bonnet

  • Check oil levels
  • Start the engine and look at the exhaust for blue/purple smoke.  If you see this it is a sign that the engine has been abused and not cared for
  • Look for signs of a re-spray e.g. paint spread on engine parts, new parts etc.  Also look for bent body work under the bonnet as this is a sign that the car could have been in a nasty shunt and not mended properly
  • Generally check for leaks of oil and water under the car


  • Make sure all electrics work. Put them all on for approximately 15 minutes to make sure they will work whilst the car is being driven.  This is also a test to make sure the battery is not flat.
  • Mileage represents interior condition.
  • Check for clocking by checking screw head for damage around the dials and dash. Also look for finger prints behind the dials. If you see finger marks be weary and ask the seller why they are there.


Don’t be afraid to undo parts of the car! Its YOUR money and you don’t want it stolen from you by buying an illegal/ unsafe car.

  • Pull seals around the doors down and check for poor quality welding. Look underneath the car for welding lines through the centre.  Both of theses could mean the car is a cut and shut (two cars welded together to make one.  This is not only illegal but highly unsafe and a car like this should NEVER be touched)
  • Check number plate matches the cars V5 document, and check this with the cars identity tag, the chassis number found under the bonnet or in door.
  • Make sure the car has a fully service history and that all stamps are in the service book.  A useful hint is to use the service book to check the mileage is genuine
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away from a car you are unsure about.  Others will come up for sale, be patient and you will end up with the car you want. Remember don’t jump at the first one you see. Search around for the same make and model to compare the condition of similar cars. 

HPI & Vehicle Data Checks

It is vital when buying a car that you do a HPI or vehicle history check. These tests can highlight.

  • If a car has been written off
  • If the car is stolen or wanted by the police
  • If there is outstanding finance on the vehicle
  • Can identify a cloned car
  • Milage checks
  • V5 Document check
  • Number plate transfer
  • VIN and chassis number match

Many companies now offer this service and prices can vary depending on the level of check you want. This can either be done online by entering the cars registration details, or even by text message. Below are links to just a few of these companies and numbers of the text message service.

Online - Prices start from just £3.95 - Prices start from £19.99 - Prices from £14.99

By Text Message

CarTextCheck - text CTC then a space and the registration number to 83600. Cost £3 plus normal network charge