Some tips when buying a used car.

So you’ve found a car you like the look of and it’s within your budget. Common questions are usually about the timing belt and service history. Here’s a few other things to check before handing over your hard earned cash.
Visual checks
  • Tyres. Are the tyres worn on one edge? This could be a sign of a tracking or suspension problem. If the tyres are worn on two edges or in the centre this is more likely to be caused by the wrong tyre pressures. See our blog post on tyre pressures here
  • Are there any chips in the windscreen glass? These could cause cracks further down the line or even be an MOT failure if over 10mm within the drivers sight line or over 40mm anywhere else on the windscreen. Also check the lights for any cracks, internal moisture or fogging of the lenses.
  • Do the electrics work? Check the windows, radio, air conditioning, wipers and lights, etc.
  • Are there any large gaps between the body panels? This could indicate a bad repair after an accident. Check the colour of the panels. Do they all match?
  • Under bonnet levels. Check oil, coolant, brake and power steering fluid. Low levels could indicate poor maintenance or a problem. Check for oil leaks under the car and under the bonnet.
  • Does the interior condition match the age of the car? If the car is low mileage but there is heavy wear of the steering wheel and foot pedal rubbers this could indicate an inconsistency.
Things to check on a test drive
  • Suspension. Listen out for any clunks and feel for any unusual jolts through the steering wheel
  • Notice the temperature gauge. Check that it starts when cold and warm. If the engine has been warmed up beforehand, is this to mask a problem? Check how quickly the temperature rises. If it is rapid it could indicate a thermostat or head gasket fault.
  • Listen to the engine. Does it run smoothly or is it rough and noisy?
  • Check the clutch. Is it easy to operate with an easy ‘biting’ point? Accelerate uphill at low revs if possible to check for clutch slipping. When pulling away is there any juddering?
  • Gears. Is gear selection easy and smooth? Does the gear selection feel sloppy or crunchy? Is there a whining noise from the gearbox?
  • Check the braking. Does it stop in a straight line or pull to one side? Does the handbrake hold well?
  • Steering. Does it feel easy or heavy? If you lighten your hands on the steering wheel, does it pull to one side?
Do some research

Many cars have common faults which you can easily find out about on the internet. Once you have found the make and model you want, it’s worth checking what any common faults might be and whether or not these have already been repaired.

Any advisories on the MOT?

Check whether any advisory items have been dealt with


Warranties can be misleading so although it’s a chore, it’s worth reading the small print. Of course the ideal is to buy from someone who has been recommended as a trusted seller as they won’t leave you high and dry if the car goes wrong but it’s still worth going over anything that is unclear.

If you buy a car that’s still within its manufacturers warranty, check the small print to make sure that cheap servicing and patent parts won’t void the warranty.

If you are local to us (EX38 8LF) and are looking for a car to buy or want to sell your car but don’t want the hassle then check out S&L autos. Steve Devereaux now offers a Park and Sell service and will handle all the details for you.

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