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It’s useful to have a checklist when you’re viewing a used car, so you can make sure you’re getting the best value for money.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have the same legal protection when you buy a used car privately as you do when you purchase from a dealer.

buying a used car tips

Check the mileage

The mileage should be reflected in the price you pay for the car. It’s unlikely that anyone would tamper with the mileage, but you should check for signs that may indicate instruments have been adjusted.

Also, is the mileage consistent with the age and appearance of the vehicle? Check the service records and MOT certificates, which should show a steady increase over the years.

Look over the engine and exterior

When you give the car the once over, look under the bonnet for any signs that could indicate a problem. Any odd welding may indicate repairs after an accident.

Check the oil level is correct and look out for sludge or oil leakages, or signs of wear and tear.

Review MOT certificates for the results of emissions tests and look to see if the car has been serviced regularly. You could ask about the condition of the catalytic convertor – and if the cam belt has been recently replaced.

Look over the car for any signs of damage to the bodywork. If the paintwork is inconsistent, this may be an indication that the vehicle has been involved in an accident.

Ensure all the tyres are in good condition with no signs of wear and tear. Is the tread within the legal limit? Less than 3mm of tread and you’ll need to replace the tyre soon.

Test drive the vehicle

When you test drive the car, listen out for any noises coming from the engine. Do any warning lights come on? Do they go off as they should once the vehicle is in motion?

As you drive, get a feel for the clutch – does it operate smoothly? Most importantly, do the brakes work efficiently – be cautious if they feel spongy and it takes a long time to come to a stop. Also, make sure the handbrake is smooth and effective.

While you’re inside the car, make sure the seatbelts work correctly. Does the vehicle have airbags fitted? You could also turn the lights on and off to ensure they’re all in working order – and check the windscreen wipers move as they should.
You should also make sure that the car’s locks work properly – and any other electrics such as windows, air-con, radio, etc.

Ensure you have all relevant documentation

The seller should show you the V5C registration document – this will confirm they’re the legal owner of the vehicle. You’ll need this document to be able to tax the car.

Check the number plate, VIN (vehicle identification number), engine number and colour match what’s on the V5C.

If the car is more than three years old, it should have an in-date MOT certificate.

Buying a used car? Why not get it checked over by your friendly local garage

Foster & Heanes offers car servicing, maintenance and repair for all makes and models of vehicles, including classic and vintage cars. We can arrange free collection and delivery if you live near our Fleet or Dogmersfield service centres.


Chatter Alley 
RG27 8SS

Hesters Garage

Upper Street
GU51 3PE


St James Road
GU51 3QH

VW Autos

St James Road
GU51 3QH