10 questions to ask when buying a used car


buying-a-used-carWhen it comes to buying a used car, there are a number of important questions to ask in order to minimise the risk of purchasing an unreliable motor. Used cars provide great value, but if you buy one that breaks down a lot and has other problems, it can end up costing a lot more in total than purchasing a new vehicle.

Whether you’re looking at used cars for sale through a private seller, dealership or elsewhere, the following questions will apply to any situation and ensure you can tell which ones are likely to be in sound working condition and which are not.

  1. Can I see the car’s service history?

You can learn a lot about a vehicle from its car service history, and it is important you ask to see it before purchasing. Cars that have had regular services should be in better condition and less likely to require repairs soon after being bought. Plus, you will know when work such as oil and battery changes last took place and get an idea for how long it will be until they need doing again. Regular services also suggest good care has been taken of the car.

  1. Has the vehicle had a car history check?

A history check is vital as it can determine a number of key details about a car’s past. It will give you information such as whether the car has been reported stolen or if it has previously been involved in an accident (including what category of damage the insurer classified the vehicle as having). These history checks will also provide information of any outstanding finance on a car, potentially saving you the hassle of having to settle historic non-payments. If buying from a dealer, ask for a copy of the history check. If buying privately, the AA offers a comprehensive car history check which we’d recommend as for less than £20 it can offer confidence and peace of mind. All cars offered on our website come with a free car history check and 12 months of breakdown cover.

  1. What are its emission levels?

The amount of car tax that has to be paid is based on a vehicle’s CO² emission levels, so it is worth considering this before buying a used car. Ask about the amount of CO² it produces, as those emitting less than 100g/km are exempt, while those above 255g/km can find themselves paying out over £500 a year in car tax alone. If the seller doesn’t know, check online using a tool like this one from the government.

  1. Can I take it for a test drive?

We would always recommend test driving a car before buying it. All reputable sellers who are confident in the vehicle will allow you to, and just by their answer to this question you can gauge whether they have any worries about it or not. A test drive will ensure you are fully satisfied with it before purchasing as well. Our handy guide gives you tips to get the most from your test drive.

  1. What finance do you accept?

Most dealers will accept all types of finance, from credit card payments to hire purchase and other types of loans including specific car loans such as those offered by the AA. However, independent sellers may only accept cash, which introduces a level of risk and provides no protection should something go wrong, unlike paying by credit card. We’d advise against spending time looking at used cars for sale if you aren’t comfortable with the payment options available.

  1. Has the car had any work done?

Services and maintenance work should show up in its service history, and the seller’s word can be checked against this for added confidence when buying a used car. Additional work such as aesthetic modifications by adding a spoiler or lowering the body can all reduce its overall value. These modifications should always be declared to your insurance provider in order for them to ensure you have adequate cover.

  1. Where is the V5C?

A V5C vehicle registration certificate is an essential document for getting the car taxed and contains other vital information. Ask to see it so you can check the number plate, VIN, engine number and colour all match up. It can also be used to see how the mileage has increased and whether it has been at a normal rate or not.

  1. Why are you selling?

For private sellers this is a question worth asking, as hesitation or suspicious sounding answers could mean there are problems with the vehicle, which is why they’re getting rid of it. Although it’s most likely they will be selling for a genuine reason such as to purchase a newer model themselves.

  1. Can I get a private inspection?

If you’re not confident in your own ability to spot faults when buying a used car, it will be worth getting a private inspection from a person or a service you trust such as an AA Vehicle Inspection. There is no reason a perfectly good second-hand car could not undergo this, so if the seller refuses or seems hesitant, it may be best to walk away.

  1. Will you be willing to negotiate on price?

When you’re looking to buy a used car on a budget, it’s always worth negotiating, especially if you know from previous questions that they’re keen to sell. From your research and enquiries, you may have detected certain faults that can knock a bit off the price too.

These ten questions should ensure you can tell when a second-hand car for sale is worth buying or not, and help you get a good deal.

Image courtesy of iStock.


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