Customers often ask me about checks they need to make when buying a used car. Although it helps to have a mechanic inspect the car you plan to buy, there are a few simple rules that anyone can follow to avoid buying an unroadworthy vehicle.
Do a Car History Check
A vehicle history check can help reduce your chances of buying a car that is being sold illegally, has outstanding finance or was previously written off. A starting point is the DVLA:
If you have the vehicle make and registration you can check details such as registration and manufacture dates, engine capacity and colour.
For information about serious accidents, finance owing and mileage try either the AA or RAC. Single vehicle checks cost around £20. Believe me it’s a price worth paying.
Check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
This number is displayed on the windscreen, under the bonnet and under the carpet beside the driver’s seat. Ensure that the VIN numbers match that recorded in the logbook.
Check the Vehicle Documents
These should include logbook, service history and MOT certificates and can reveal important information about whether the car has been looked after properly. They can also highlight any clock tampering, which is a common practice among unscrupulous sellers.
Check the Body Work
Rusty areas, paint colours that don’t match and other damage could be a source of serious problems down the road. Ask the owner directly about any problems you spot and if the answer is unconvincing WALK AWAY.
Test Drive and Test Components
Driving a car can tell you a great deal. Does it feel sluggish? Do all the electric components work? Are there any strange engine noises? Rather than just sitting in the car with the engine idling, either take the car for a drive yourself or ask the owner to drive you round the block.
While this information is fairly basic, it’s surprising how many people neglect to do any or all of the points above. You may be one of the lucky ones that buy a good car without the checks, but equally you may buy an illegal car that ultimately must be scrapped. It’s worth the effort to make the checks!