Back to the Blog

What to Check Before Buying a Used Car

For most of us, our first car will be second-hand. Unless you're getting a hand-me-down and you’re buying it, then there are certain things you should check out first.

Here is what you should be aware of before you buy a second-hand car.

What to Check Before Buying a Used Car, Photo by Steve Harvey

Has the finance been paid?

Many people take out loans to buy their car. However, until that loan is paid off, the car technically belongs to the finance company they used.

Unfortunately, some people will try to sell their car before they've finished paying their loan off. Thus, if you buy this car, legally you won’t own it and it can be taken off you.

It's crucial that you check whether a loan was taken out and whether they have fully paid it off.

Check the service history

When buying a used car, you want to know as much about it as possible. Understanding its service history is as important as anything else.

The service history of a car consists of any previous maintenance work performed on the vehicle. An example of what to look for in the service history is whether the timing-belt has been changed. The timing-belt of a car needs to be changed every 100,000 - 120,000 kilometres, failure to do so can result in the belt snapping.

Without knowing the service history, you won't know if a part has been service and if it hasn't, you'll know you'll be required to pay out even more for your brand new car. If you know at the offset work will need done, you may be able to negotiate a better price.

Check the MOT history

Alongside the service history, knowing the MOT history is also vital knowledge before you purchase a used car.

By checking the car's MOT history, you can discover if it has previously passed or failed these required tests. You'll learn details like the cars mileage, recorded at the date of the test, what parts failed the test, if any other have minor issues were discovered and finally, when the cars next MOT is due.

You can check a cars MOT history by following this link. All you need is the number plate of the car.

Find out the mileage

As mentioned previously, you can discover the mileage by checking the MOT history. However, if there’s been some time since the cars last MOT you might want to get an updated number.

While you can check the cars internal mileage clock, this can be tampered with, so you usually want to check the clock as well as the MOT and from there, you can gauge whether it adds up. Checking the mileage is important, mostly if you're planning to sell the car, as low mileage will increase its resale value.

Was the car previously owned by a smoker?

While more a personal requirement and not crucial, if you don’t like the smell of cigarettes or are concerned about the cars future resale value then knowing whether the previous owners have smoked is worth knowing.

Just like with renting or buying property, the smell of smoke stays and it is almost impossible to get rid of. When visiting a car you're thinking of buying, close the doors (so there's no fresh air blowing through) and give the car a good smell. Get your nose right up to the fabric. If you think you can smell it, but are unsure (may the car is a bit stale due to disuse), it’s better to ask and find out if the owner is a smoker.

Check the amount of previous owners

As mentioned previously, before buying a new car you want to know as much about it as possible. So, naturally knowing the amount of owners it has is good knowledge, though not alone a sign of a poor purchase.

To check this, the current owner should be able to show you a V5C logbook, which contains information on the number of previous owners.

Is the car in warranty?

Why not experiment with listening to new stations?

Finally, make sure you know what warranty is available to the car before you buy.

A vehicle warranty is a type of insurance that protects you from the cost of fixing certain mechanical or electrical problems. Knowing if a vehicle has warranty left and that the warranty is assigned to the car and not the owner, gives peace of mind and could save you some expense in the long run.

Cover for the Learner Driver Guide

Learning to drive?

Learner Driver Guide

Find out more information about learning to drive in your local area with our Learner Guide.

View Guide