Staff Blog – 11/10/2015


A Guide to Buying a used car

With the amount of choice now on the Internet with Autotrader and eBay, finding a good genuine used car is sometimes like finding a needle in a haystack. We see a lot of people who have been stung when buying a used car. For this reason I thought I would blog a few hints and tips from my experience when it comes to buying a used car.

Finding the right car

Once you have established your budget and what make and model you are looking for, the first step I would take is to search websites on the Internet and make a shortlist of possible vehicle to buy. Most people would go straight to Autotrader, however eBay and Pistonheads have a really good choice of used vehicles, as they are far cheaper for sellers to advertise on. The one website I would be very careful of is Gumtree, there are a lot of cars advertised on Gumtree which are a scam. (They advertise a bogus car extremely cheap and try and obtain credit card details by convincing people to leave a deposit).

When sifting through the search results what you will usually find is that the cars that look extremely cheap are usually cheap for a reason: Insurance Write Offs, no service history, poor condition, mechanical problems. I would usually start looking at the cars that level out in a similar price bracket. Once I had found potential cars I may want to view I would then Google the garages and check out their websites, reviews and any information I can find on them. Also find out what warranty the dealers provide with the vehicle.

Viewing Cars

Once you have compiled a shortlist plan a day or a few days of viewing the cars. Call up the dealers and make appointments so to make sure the cars are still available and to make sure the dealers are free to see you when you visit them. First view the paperwork. This is what you should be looking for:

V5 Registration document – How many owners, check chassis number against the vehicle, who the previous owner where?
MOT – when is the due date? What were the advisories on the last MOT and have they been rectified?
Service History – Has the vehicle got a full service history and when was it last serviced? When is the timing belt changed? If it’s a 4×4 has the differential oil been changed?
HPI check – this will tell you if the car is an insurance write off, if there is any finance outstanding, if there has been any plate changes and if the car is reported stolen. All dealers should have this facility however there are many companies on the Internet offering this service.

Once you are happy with the paperwork it is time to look at the car. Start with the exterior; check all the panels of the car individually. Start in one corner and make your way slowly round the car. You should be looking out for the following:

Do the body panels and the lines of the car match up with each other and are they straight?
Are there any abnormal gaps between the body panels?
Do the headlights look straight?
Are there any impurities and pimples in the paint?
Are there any ripples or dents on the panels?
Are the outer, middle and inner treads of the tyres good?
Have the windows got any cracks or chips?
Are the alloy wheels in good condition?

Once you are happy with the exterior it is time too look at the interior:

Has the car been smoked in?

Have they had pets in the car?
Are the seats in good condition and not marled or stained?
Check the roof lining?
Check the plastics and dashboard for scratches and marks.
Does the air conditioning work?
Do all the electric windows work?

Once you have checked all these areas it is time for a test drive. It still surprises me that some people decided not to testdrive a car; to me this is just crazy. You will probably be driving the car everyday, so why would you not want to see how it drives? Here are a few things too look out for:

Does the car idle smoothly?
Does in accelerate smoothly?
Does the car brake smoothly, straight and noise free?
Does the car drive straight (sometimes car do have a tendacy to naturally pull a little to the left due to road camber)
Make sure the car does not smoke excessively.
Are the gear changes smooth and effortless?
Does the vehicle go into reverse smoothly?

Part Exchange

Most dealers will offer part exchange, however check with the dealer first if is essential for you when purchasing a new car. For a guide price on what you should expect eBay is a really good indicator. But remember a cars value isn’t what other cars are advertised at, a cars value is what they are selling at. Some people try and unrealistically price their cars too high when selling them privately, this can obscure your view on the value of your part exchange.

Once you know what ballpark you are looking at for your car, take all your paperwork and let every dealer give you a part exchange price. Even if the dealer’s car is not for you, the more prices you can get for your part exchange the better idea you will have on your part exchange value.

AA and RAC checks

I think these are a great facility. The cost is in the region of £200 depending who you use. But they will thoroughly check the car over and they will also give you a verbal and written condition report. They will also HPI check the vehicle and check all the paperwork. Especially if you are not mechanically minded I think these checks are a great idea. However if you are going to spend £200 on a check, try and secure the vehicle subject to the outcome on a check by placing a deposit on the vehicle. The last thing you want is for you to spend £200 and then the car to get snapped up right under your feet.


If you are getting a loan first get a quote from your loan provider and bank. After you have done this ask the dealer for their finance options. Using car finance is handy, as the loan is secured against the vehicle. This gives you more rights as a consumer and also leaves open other sources of loan if you decide later to renew your kitchen or boiler.


Once you have found the right car, act quickly and don’t let it get away. There is a famous saying in this game: “If you snooze, you lose!”

Written by David Alvarez – Director at AZ Autos

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