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How to buy a used car safely
How to buy a used car safely

How to buy a used car safely

13 April 2021

Buying a used car is an extremely big decision and one that shouldn’t be made without thought. Cars are expensive purchases, so it is important that you spend that money well. Before buying your next car there are things you need to do in order to ensure that you are getting the most for your money and aren’t going to end up regretting your purchase. Below are some ways to buy a used car safely.

Do your research

The first thing you need to do when buying a used car is to have a look around at what is on offer. If there are a few different ones that you like, take a look at the car specifications to see which you think will work best for you. If they are the same car compare the price, milage and other factors to see which one you would prefer. It is fine to get in touch with multiple sellers to ask questions and potentially even view a few.


Look out for what milage the car has done. The less miles the better. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a car with a lot of miles is bad, it just means that it will have lost value. The more miles it has done the cheaper it should be. If you want a cheap car that you aren’t relying on selling for a good price after you are done with it, then getting a car with a big milage shouldn’t be a problem as long as it has been serviced and had MOTs regularly.

View the car

It is highly recommended that you view the car before agreeing to buying it. Going and viewing the car will ensure that you are going to get what is advertised. It is best to view the car at the seller’s home if possible, so that you can see if the address matches the registered owner details and will know where they live in case of any legal issues. Avoid going to viewings alone if possible, in order to keep yourself safe.

When you are viewing the car, look out for any damage or issues that you didn’t know about. Check the functionality and the space to see if this would be something that you are interested in.

Ask more details about the car

Ask plenty of questions about the car to the seller, including information about when it was last MOT’d, how often is it serviced, is there any unseen damage etc. If the seller is unsure about this information and doesn’t know how to find out then it is best to avoid buying it.

Check the document details

Ask to see the V5C logbook and check that the registered keeper’s address is the same as the address where you are viewing the car. If the details do not match, then you will need to ask the seller why. Whatever the answer might be you might be at risk of buying a car that has been stolen. You will need to make up your mind as to whether the seller is genuine, and you can trust them or not. You could ask to see their driver’s license to ensure they are who they say they are and take a picture of this so that you have it for your record. Ask the seller how long they have owned the vehicle and check the information against the V5C logbook.

Check the service records

Ask to see any service or MOT records that they have. They might not have all of their records since owning the vehicle, but it is vital that you see the most recent one. Look through previous MOTs to see any advisories that haven’t been repaired yet as these are likely to be added costs at its next MOT. If there are a lot of expensive advisories, then you can negotiate the price in order to cover those prices in the future.

How many car keys are there?

This might not be too important to you, but you need to check out the car keys. Is there a spare set of keys? It is always best to have at least two keys to access the car in case one breaks, is lost, or runs out of batteries. For some cars getting a new key can cost hundreds of pounds, so it is important that you find this information out.

Go for a test drive

If you are happy with the car and all of its documentation then you should take it out for a test drive. This is where bringing a friend or a family member is important, in order to stay safe in a vehicle with a stranger. Not all people will want potential buyers to take their car for a test drive, which doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad car, they might just be worried it could get stolen.

If you are able to take it for a test drive, try to drive it on multiple different roads to see what it is like on different terrains and under different conditions. Going for a test drive will allow you to find out whether you are comfortable driving the car and will be happy with it in the future.

Before you go for a test drive make sure you are fully insured to test drive a car on a public highway. You can save money by comparing car insurance online or purchase temporary car insurance if your looking for short term cover.

Do a vehicle history check

If you decide after all this that you still want the car then you should do a proper vehicle history check to look into tax, MOT, insurance and other details. This will help you double check that it will be a legitimate purchase and the vehicle is worth the price.

Consider Finance

If you are thinking about taking out car finance to pay for the vehicle, you will need to do some research into how much you can loan and what the repayment options will be. Set yourself a budget of how much you want to be repaying a month and stick to it.

Safely make the transaction

Make sure that you use a safe payment method. Ask to pay half before they give you the keys and half afterwards, to ensure that they don’t just take your money and run. It is best to pay via a bank transfer so that you have evidence of a purchase to their account. If they insist on you are paying in cash, then meet in a safe and secure place. Get a receipt for the purchase with details of both the car and the seller on it.

Transfer of documents

Once payment has been made, the registered keeps has to send the V5C log book off to the DVLA or go online and update who now owns the vehicle. It is best that you watch them do that where you are, so that you can’t be accused of stealing the car and if you are stopped whilst driving home, you will be fully registered as the car’s owner. As the new keeper of the car, you should take home the green V5 section slip.

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