What to look out for when buying a used car

Car Shopping Tips

Buying a car can be an exciting experience but at the same time a little daunting. Going for a used car rather than new can save you a lot of pennies upfront, however there are several things you must look out for before handing over your well-earned cash.

Checking a car over before buying doesn’t have to be complicated, here are 6 items you should look out for when buying a used car.


The first thing you should ask for is to see a V5C. This is very important as it shows who is the registered keeper of the vehicle. If you are buying a car privately, and the person who is selling you the car isn’t the person on the V5C, this is a huge warning.

It is possible to buy a car without a V5C, however you should approach it with caution.

MOT and Service History

Any used car aged between 3-40 years needs to have an MOT once a year. The MOT test is proof that the car is safe and roadworthy.

You can look at a car’s MOT history yourself on the government website by searching the car’s registration. This will tell you when the car was last tested and the reason for any failures. You can also check if there are any outstanding safety recalls that need attending too.

Cars have a service schedule set out by the manufacturer. This is typically once a year but can vary depending on make and model. Most cars should come with a service book which shows when and where routine work has been carried out. For peace of mind, it’s always better to buy a used car with a full service history if you can find one.


Mileage is one of the most important things to look at when buying a used car, though a high mileage isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the car has a solid history service history to back it up.

Be aware of ‘clocked’ cars when looking at mileage. This means the mileage has been manually adjusted to be lower than its true value.

Inspect the Car

Once approving all the paperwork, you can now turn your attention to the car itself. When buying a used car, you are not going to get perfection. On the outside, you’re looking for any dents, signs of rust on the body and checking if the tyres have plenty of tread left.


You should ask the dealer/current owner if they have made nay modifications to the car outside its original spec. This is important as you will need to declare these to the insurer, even if they are not visible. Examples of these are an upgraded air filter for the engine or something as basic as new alloy wheels.

Test Drive

Now that you’ve checked the documents and the physical car, it’s time for the fun part – the test drive!

You want to make sure you feel comfortable driving the car as well as giving you the opportunity to pick up on any faults.

Some things to look out for:

Steering: does the car pull either side?

Brakes: make sure they are not worn

Gear change: does the vehicle change gear smoothly?

Engine: look out for any odd noises or signs of smoke coming from the exhaust.

Make sure you have the correct insurance to take a test drive. Dealers tend to have insurance in place for test drives, but you should check anyway. Private sellers will almost always need you to have yourself covered.

If all goes well when you check over the paperwork, the car and take it for a test drive, then it looks like you’re ready to buy the car!

Once purchasing the vehicle, the next step is purchasing a used vehicle warranty. As you are buying a used car, it is inevitable that your vehicle’s components will fail as the car gets older.

Prepare for the unexpected by purchasing an extended warranty. To get a FREE quote today from the best used car warranty UK provider, click here.

Guest Blog: Isabelle Day Best4

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