Advantages Bargains to be had, large choice
Disadvantages Can be risky, it's a minefield
Looking for a used car? It can be a traumatic experience to say the least but hopefully the information in this review may help you. It will highlight what to look for & the tricks sales staff sometimes use.You have three choices when buying a used car, buying it from a car dealer or a private seller. There is another option, an auction, but that is not advised for the faint hearted.
However, before you even start to look for your next car there are a number of important issues that need to be highlighted. These are things that are often over looked when buying a car but important issues that can't be ignored. Keep these items in the back of your mind when buying a used car of any age.CLOCKED CARS:
WRITTEN OFF CARS / STOLEN CARS / CARS STILL IN FINANCE:
This is a nasty one, cars that have been written off which are repaired and put back on the road with false documents and probably false registration numbers. Buy one of these and you will live to regret it, all it takes is the police to do an innocent routine check on your registration number and it will show a discrepancy. You will be asked to supply your vehicle documents and they in turn will confirm your vehicle is a write off.
Despite having a receipt for the vehicle and the belief that it is yours, they in turn will prove the documents are false and you will be forced to hand over the car to the authorities. Your insurance company won't want to know, you have little chance of finding the seller and you end up out of pocket and without a car.
How can you avoid this situation? Before you decide to purchase a car have a check done on the vehicle to confirm that it is written off or still in finance. Companies such as HPI and the AA will help here for a modest fee, it is money well spent as even the professional garages get caught out from time to time.
The same applies to cars still in finance, if the previous owner did not mention to you that he or she is still paying for the vehicle and then defaults on his or her payments, your car legally belongs to the finance company. Once again you will be out of pocket and without a car, so a check before buying becomes absolutely essential.
CHECKING VEHICLE HISTORY:
You will need more than gut feelings to avoid buying an ex-written off vehicle or a vehicle with outstanding finance. The statistics are quite scary, a stolen car is offered for sale in the UK every 20 minutes and one in four cars for sale still have outstanding finance.
The only safe way to avoid being caught out is to have the vehicle details checked out before you buy. It is money well spent as you will be the loser should you purchase one of these vehicles.
Many companies at present offer a vehicle history check service, some include HPI (short for Hire Purchase Information Limited), the trusty AA, Reg Check and My Car Check. HPI is the most famous, the most expensive but the most thorough. Established in 1938 they will confirm if the vehicle is stolen, still in finance, an ex-write off and if there are any known mileage discrepancies.
The AA is a little cheaper but just as thorough, although the other two companies are considerably cheaper they failed to impress Autocar magazine in a recent comparison test.
Even the motor dealers have these checks carried out before they put a used car on their forecourts, so if the experts can get caught out what chance have you?
A grey import is a vehicle that has been originally purchased new in another country and imported into the UK. In the late nineties when cars on sale in mainland Europe were cheaper to buy new than in the UK, many British people travelled to Europe to buy right hand drive cars from European dealers. It was all legal and it saved a fortune, these cars are now classed as grey imports and may have slightly different specifications from normal UK models. The most noticeable ones are the Vauxhall/Opel models; they are sold as Vauxhall in the UK and as Opel in Europe. They are essentially the same car but may have slightly different specifications and badges.
Many will soon fall into the budget zone, don't worry, importing a grey import was never a risk when new and should have no negative repercussions when they become used.
THE MOT CERTIFICATE:
One important issue that people constantly fall for is the assumption that a MOT certificate means that the vehicle is 100% mechanically sound. Not so, a MOT certificate is no more than confirmation of an annual inspection on the safety related items on the vehicle that met an acceptable standard on the day of the test. A car can legally sail through a MOT test with a noisy gearbox, or leaking radiator and many other expensive mechanical faults. Never assume an MOT is confirmation that the vehicle is mechanically sound.
TRADER v PRIVATE SALE:
When a motor trader sells a car he or she has responsibilities that a private trader needn't worry about. Often traders will try and sell a vehicle particularly in the classified sections of the local newspapers disguised as private sellers. Be aware that any small advert with a 'T' at the end of it is being sold by a motor trader and no 'T' will indicate a private seller.
To prevent being caught out always contact the seller by telephone and ask "I am enquiring about the car you have advertised in the local paper", if he or she answers "Which car?" you can almost guarantee they are a trader with more than one car for sale.
Failing that, when you view the car, check the name and address on the registration documents to see if they correspond with the person who is selling the vehicle, private sellers sometimes correspond but the traders won't.
High mileage cars are often run into the ground by taxi drivers, sales reps and multiple drivers. They can be purchased quite cheaply but need a fortune spent on them to bring them to a reasonable standard. They often look and feel totally neglected and simply worn out.
On the other hand, well maintained high mileage cars can be a good bargain, many are used by companies who do not skimp on servicing and repairs as having a car off the road costs them considerably money. These cars are usually 'one driver only' who looks after the car, they sometimes run up and down the country and rarely spend time in cities, thus avoiding 'city abuse'.
A high mileage car like this will probably run better than a low mileage car that rarely clocks up more than a few miles on each journey. Short runs where the vehicle rarely reaches operating temperatures isn't good for the car, where as motorway runs at speed using less of the brakes and transmission is better overall.
Don't always be put off by high mileage cars and don't always assume a low mileage car is best.
THREE GOLDEN RULES:
Before looking at a used car always remember three golden rules:
1: Never look at a car in darkness or artificial light, it has to be daylight only.
2: Never look at a car on neutral ground or at your home unless you know the seller or garage employee. Always go to the seller's premises and never look at a car that is being sold form a lay-by or field.
3: Always take someone with you, it really doesn't matter of the person you take with you knows nothing about cars they only need to be there as a witness to conversation and to take notes.
Let's start with a used car dealer but this could apply to larger dealer sites too. Some used car traders sell cars from small back street sites; remember they all have to start somewhere! Many have a great reputation, totally trustworthy and will only sell you a decent car.
However, there are many who make Phil Mitchell or Arthur Daley look like a saint, beware there are many unscrupulous garages out there and dodgy car sales people operate everywhere.
If you are looking for a cheap car and find one at one of these small used car outlets do some homework first. Find out if anyone in your circle of friends has dealt with this car dealer before, ask around before you go visit.
Unlike buying a car from a private individual, buying from a car dealer does give you more legal redress if things go horribly wrong.
The final thing to watch out for from garages is once the deal has been completed and an invoice is raised, check it over very carefully. Many garages to avoid paying tax on the profit of the deal reduce the total amount that you have to pay on the invoice.
Let's say you have agreed to pay £2000 or a car which includes the trade in value of your old car of £1000 leaving a balance of £1000. Unscrupulous garages will make the invoice out at £1500 with the same balance but a lower price for the trade in. At this stage you are not out of pocket and you probably sympathise with them about tax evasion. However, at a later date if you need to prove the value of the car to an insurance company or wish to reject the vehicle, you have an invoice with a lesser value.
Many garages have been known to work from the lower figure leaving the owner out of pocket should they decide to reject the car and claim their money back. Always ensure the invoice is made out to the correct amount.
This is where you are likely to find the best deals but it can be risky if you don't know much about cars. You need to be mindful of the risks; you don't have the same legal protection when things go wrong with private sales as you do with a garage. Let's assume you have spotted an advert for a vehicle that has taken your interest in your local paper. Make contact with your seller on the phone and ask the following questions: How long have they owned the vehicle?
Obviously you need to note the details and features of the vehicle before you inspect it but at this point you will have a general idea if the person is wasting your time or not. If you are suspicious of anything he or she has told you leave it at that, you will only waste your time looking at it, there is always something better that will turn up.
If however you are tempted to inspect the vehicle, this is where you have to make a difficult decision, you want to look at a car but you don't know what you are looking at. Do you pay to have the car inspected or do you take a chance and get someone who knows a little about cars to come with you. Ideally, you shouldn't look at a car unless you know what you are looking for, do you have any friends or colleagues who are mechanically minded or are ex-mechanics? If so, it would be wise to take them along for advice and some moral support. This also applies to cars bought from dealers.
This section is boring but I need to explain some of the more important points when checking over a car.ITEMS TO TAKE WITH YOU:
THE PAPER TRIAL:
Let us assume you are looking at a car being sold by a private seller from his home. Firstly have a look at all the paper work available for the vehicle. Firstly, ask to look at the vehicle registration document (V5), if they cannot produce one or make an excuse for not having one, walk away from the situation. Remember, no documents, no deal.
It would helpful if the name and address of the owner on the document corresponded with the place you are currently inspecting the vehicle. However, the V5 document is not a 'document of title' as the person recorded on the document may not be the legal owner.
Hold the document up to the light, a legal copy should have a water mark contained within the layers of paper. Ensure that a fraudulent water mark hasn't simply been printed on to the surface of the paper. Assure yourself that the person selling the vehicle has the right to do so.
All vehicle details must correspond with the vehicle and take time to check the chassis number against the vehicles chassis plate and separate embossed markings, if they look tampered with, walk away.
Check the MOT certificate and any old certificates check the mileages through the years and see if they correspond. If there any service or repair invoices, check the mileages and see if they correspond with the MOT certificates.
Also, check the service book for regular services and check where they have been done, again check mileages against the invoices. Be suspicious if they have all been written out with the same hand writing and without the important dealer stamps.
Some vehicles have their registration number etched on all the windows, check if they correspond with the number on the vehicle. If the vehicle has a 'Q' registration number, it indicates that age and identity of the vehicle is unknown. It may be innocent enough, as some cars are built from used parts or it may have been imported without any evidence of its age.
UNDER THE BONNET:
If you haven't already done it, check the chassis number against your paperwork and whilst you are under the bonnet make a point of looking over the general condition of the bodywork. Check the condition of rubber items such as coolant hoses and drive belts. Check for general oil leaks and look at all the reservoirs for correct level of fluids. Also check for corrosion on the inner wings and bulkhead.
TIME TO LOOK UNDERNEATH:
Just before you raise the car, press down on each corner to check the operation of the shock absorbers, the vehicle should bounce back quite smartly; if it keeps bouncing one or more shock absorbers are weak. With the use of a 'jack' raise the vehicle up at one of the front corners and support the vehicle on a support stand for safety. With the front wheel off the ground you are now going to check the suspension, steering and brakes as well as the general condition of the bodywork.
Ask someone to apply the footbrake and check to see if the brake is holding and also releasing after the brake pedal is released. Apply the footbrake again and check for bulging brake hoses.
Hold the front wheel in the six o'clock position and check for excessive free play in the hub assembly, check again at the quarter past nine position. With the steering on full lock, check for any excessive movement in the lower ball joints. Whilst there, check the security of all suspension and steering links, joints, springs and check for oil leaks from the shock absorber as well as corrosion on the front brake discs.
While under the vehicle take your time to check all chassis legs and sills for corrosion, this is where the small screwdriver comes in handy. If you gently tap the handle against the body you will hear a general knock confirming no corrosion and strength in the body. The knock changes to a dull and distinctive thud when you tap against filler repairs. If in doubt, use the magnet to confirm this and if this does confirm your worst fears, walk away and look for another car.
Check the fuel tank for leaks and stains, a popular trick many play is having a fuel tank that leaks at its joining seam, which is usually half way up the tank. By keeping the fuel level below the quarter mark (below the level of the seam) the leak usually dries up and only leaves a stain. If the fuel level in the vehicle is low and you see a stain, be suspicious, also check the filler tubes for stains caused by leaks when filling the tank. Newer cars have plastic tanks and filler tubes that eliminate this problem.
Once the road test is completed and you are happy with the vehicle's overall performance, it's 'make your mind up time'. If you have kept a note of the problems you have noticed whilst inspecting and road testing the car, carefully assess the potential costs of putting them right. Highlight these points to the seller and see if they are willing to negotiate on the asking price.
If you feel that the car is overpriced for what it is with the recorded faults then this may give you some bargaining room to have the price reduced.
If the seller is not prepared to negotiate and you feel it is not exactly what you want for the asking price, then walk away. Remember you maybe the only person who has looked at the car and if the seller is desperate he may accept a lower offer either at the time or maybe in few days when no one else shows interest. Play the waiting game; it can often lead to a reduced offer.
Once you have decided to purchase the car make up a brief contract, this just needs to be short and simple. Just record a description of the vehicle, the date and selling price. If the seller has agreed to carry out some work, list that too along with his name, address and signature. If you are leaving a deposit record that on the contract too. If he or she is unwilling to sign this simple contract then be suspicious and walk away.
PAYING FOR THE VEHICLE:
Cash or cheque? It all depends on how much you are paying for your car but the best advice is not to pay cash unless you have to. Carrying large amounts of cash around is risky.
A personal cheque or banker's draft will take time to clear and the seller is unlikely to release the car until it clears. An electronic transfer (CHAPS) is possible and you may get the car the same day, but some transfers (BACS) can take 3-4 working days, consider all your options before you buy.
If the seller insists on holding on to the vehicle until your cheque has cleared, you must get a receipt which gives details of the vehicle and the name and address of the seller.
I herby accept receipt of (value) for the vehicle (make, model & registration number) from (buyer's name). Date and signed.
Adding 'sold as seen' makes no legal difference, at this point tear off the section from the V5 document to allow the seller to inform the DVLC of change of ownership.
The V5 documents that are in two parts only require the seller to detach the bottom section to confirm he or she is no longer the owner and send it to the DVLC. You as the buyer must complete the back of the V5 document to confirm your details and send it to the DVLC immediately.
The three part V5 document requires the seller to fill in the blue upper section, both you and the seller must sign the declaration and the seller must send it to the DVLC. You the buyer must fill in the green section and send it to the DVLC.
Attention, this is the first review from this author
Instead of giving a negative rating, consider:
Help this member by giving your advice
Report fraud (for example plagiarism) or other issue with the review to the Ciao support team
Add your comment