10 questions to ask yourself before buying a used car

At Exchange and Mart and s1cars, we pride ourselves on working with only trusted dealers and sellers in the UK, minimising the risk involved in buying a used car. But it’s always best practice when making any big purchase to do due diligence and make some final checks before you sign on the dotted line. So, to make sure you aren’t landed with a lemon, here are 10 questions to ask yourself before you buy a used car.


  1. Does it look legit?

If you think the deal is too good to be true, don’t write it off straight away. There are easy ways to check the finer details of a car like the V5 vehicle document, service history, MOT certificates and old receipts. You can also run an HPI inspection on the vehicle that will tell you if it’s a UK car, if it has been stolen or has any outstanding finance attached to it. It’s best to speak to the dealer if this check has already been carried out. If you’re buying from a private seller, you may need to run this check yourself.

  1. Has it been in an accident?

An HPI inspection will tell you if the car has been a total insurance write off in the past or if it has been recorded as scrap, but if you want to check for any minor damage then the golden rule is to check during the day. Rain can hide a multitude of scratches and dents so, if you can, visit on a dry day. Check under carpets for signs of welding, and take a good look at the shutlines around the bonnet and boot for evidence of misalignment.

  1. Has it been clocked?

The best way to do this is by checking the old MOT certificates and registration document, but it’s also worth looking at the general condition of the vehicle. Does the level of wear and tear match the age? Does the interior, such as the steering wheel, dash and peddles, correspond to the mileage?

  1. Does it have any faults?

When buying a used car, you need to be realistic about the condition – you aren’t buying off the shelf or fresh out the box. More than likely, it will have had multiple drivers before you and clocked up the miles. Some scratches and dents shouldn’t be a surprise. The best thing is to prioritise any faults. Can you live with them? Do they affect the performance of the car? Are they going to cost a lot to fix? Answering these questions will help determine the cars value to you personally.

  1. How much is it worth?

A used car tends to have two values – what it’s worth on the market and what it’s worth to you. For example, classic car lovers would maybe pay more for a collector’s item than someone that’s just looking for a run-around. If you’re comparing market value, check for other models in the same year and condition and what the going price for those are. This will also help when it comes to haggling. Checking the overall condition and the previous points will also affect the price you eventually decide to pay.

  1. Has it been taken care of?

Whether the car has been taken care of is down to the previous owners. You could have a used car that’s had multiple careful owners, compared to one owner that neglected it all together. Checking previous MOT certificates and its service history will help you determine the upkeep of the car and if there were any major issues.

  1. Does it have a full service history?

Again, this is down to how well the previous owner kept up to date with the servicing schedule. Used cars are more appealing if they come with a FSH.

  1. Have you taken it on a test drive?

One of the most important things to do when buying any car is to take it for a test drive. This gives you a chance to get a feel for the car, how it handles and how confident you feel behind the wheel. Remember to take a friend with you when you go for your test drive, so you have someone to experience the car from a passenger’s point of view.

  1. Have you checked the running costs?

Remember, the cost for a car doesn’t just mean the purchase price. There are additional running costs such as road tax, insurance, MOT and servicing, parking fees and general repairs. So, factor these in when budgeting for your car.

  1. Are you getting the best price?

The art of haggling isn’t dead and is a good way to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If there’s no movement on the price, see about a deal on a service plan, new tyres or even floor mats. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!


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