Buying A Second Hand Car

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Buying A Second Hand Car

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Review of "Buying A Second Hand Car"

published 10/08/2008 | ScottishWestie
Member since : 29/07/2007
Reviews : 208
Members who trust : 75
About me :
Pro Bargains to be had, large choice
Cons Can be risky, it's a minefield

"The motoring 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.

The terminology used to describe a vehicle that has fraudulently had its mileage odometer tampered with, usually to reduce the mileage to increase the vehicles value. It is as much a problem today as it was 25 years ago despite manufacturers' best efforts to make the systems tamper proof. It is quite shocking how easy it is to reduce the mileage of a vehicle and the tricks the fraudsters play to increase the value.
It is easier now then ever because modern cars don't deteriorate as quickly as they used to, many can achieve over 100.000 miles and still drive as smooth as they were when new. Taking 50.000 off a mileage reading will hardly be noticed even by the professional technicians, but the value that will added will be considerable.
How do you as an innocent buyer avoid buying a clocked car? There is no fool proof system but you can help the situation by being informed. Until recently cars had mechanical speedometers with separate cables driven from the gearbox, if someone was to tamper with the mileage, it usually left the mileage reading out of line. Be suspicious of any mileage readings that are not in line, unless they are coming up to a large change of numbers, e.g. 49999 to 50000.
Later cars have electronic speedometers; this can be altered with alarming ease. The fraudsters with the aid of a lap top and some software will simply change the readings to suit your needs and this time the mileage display will always be in line.
Other tell tale signs are excessively worn pedal rubbers, worn steering wheel rims, flat worn out drivers seats and look out for well worn carpets in the drivers footwell.
Before looking at a car always make a point of studying the service books which will record mileages over the vehicles existence, old MOT certificates or old receipts from garages are also helpful. If the seller cannot supply any paperwork or states that it is missing then walk away from what could be a clocked car.

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.

There are occasions when ex-written off vehicles are legally put back on the road. When an insurance company writes off a vehicle the registration document (V5) is surrendered and destroyed. The insurance company will notify the DVLC regarding the situation who in turn will set a VIC (Vehicle Identity Check) marker on their database. Should the vehicle be repaired and be put back on the road the DVLC will not issue a new registration document or road tax until that same vehicle has passed a strict VIC check.
Only VOSA (Vehicle & Operator Services Agency) will carry out the detailed check on the vehicle with particular attention paid to identity numbers, mechanical repairs and true age of the vehicle.

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?

Not so common now but still a worrying situation. These are cars that again have been written off, usually two models of the same make, one damaged at the front and one at the rear. The fraudsters make one complete car out of two and join them very professionally in the middle. They use the original chassis number from the front car along with the registration number, falsify documents and sell it on the open market.
When you look under one of these cars you will see a joining seam running the width of the car in the middle section of the body, that is what they call a 'cut and shut' car. No manufacturer will join cars together in this fashion so you can confidently say it's a car to walk away from.

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.

In Japan they drive on the same side of the road as us, they also produce a huge number of cars designed and built for the UK market. Sometimes they produce very desirable cars that are never sold outside Japan.
In the early nineties Japan was producing some very desirable and unusual cars such as the Nissan Skyline GTR, Nissan Figaro, Nissan S-Cargo, Honda Beat and so on. Many UK businesses saw an opportunity to import these domestic spec cars into the UK.
Once they were here, these companies would modify them for UK use by installing 'mph' speedometers to replace the ones reading kilometers, fitting rear fog lamps and so on.
Such was the popularity of the venture that many other companies started importing them and other main stream models. They came in by the ship load and proved very popular due to their competitive prices and reputation for reliability.
The public bought them thinking they were getting a bargain. What you got was a domestic spec vehicle really only suitable for the Japanese market. The cars may have looked similar to UK cars but they featured completely different engine management systems, different tyres, different trim levels and different brakes, suspension and steering systems.
Obtaining spare parts became difficult, franchised dealers really didn't want to know. Insurance costs were high and tracing their service history was impossible.
These cars fell out of favour when new cars in Britain started to fall in price. They can often be confused for an original import but reading their chassis numbers will make thing clear.
An official imported car from Japan will contain a 17-digit chassis number whilst a personal Japanese import will show much less. A seller must inform the prospective owner that it is an unofficial import and their values are usually considerably less.

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.

Once upon a time if you purchased a car without a spare key all you did was visit a key cutting shop and have a replacement made in minutes for a couple of pounds. Times have changed; modern cars are fitted with sophisticated alarms and immobilisers with chips and transponders which form part of these circuits imbedded in the keys. Should you lose a key or never be supplied with a spare one when you buy a car, a replacement can be expensive.
In nearly all cases the keys need to be programmed to the vehicle and the cost of this plus the key can exceed £100. When buying a modern vehicle ensure that you get two keys and not just a dummy key that will allow entry to the vehicle but not start it.
Take each key and check that it starts the vehicle but keep the keys a reasonable distance apart as one good key can cover a problem with another key if they are on the same key ring.

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.

This should be an easy decision, in theory low mileage is what you want and avoid high mileage if you can. In practice it's not always that way, low mileage cars that have been regularly serviced and parked at night in a dry garage command a higher price and are very desirable. They are difficult to find on the second hand market but are usually well looked after by their original owner who has probably kept it for many years.
The trouble is that many low mileage cars often get neglected, they are never regularly serviced, sit outside day after day in all weathers and can deteriorate quite badly. They are used for weekly runs to the shops are rarely get up to operating temperatures.
Cars like these suffer premature seizure of handbrake cables and brake callipers; they suffer badly corroded brake pipes, discs and drums, failed exhausts, blocked breathing systems and more than the usual electrical gremlins.

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.

Often called the chassis number or VIN number for short; it is fitted to every vehicle sold in this country. It is a bit like the serial number found on electrical goods and should never be tampered with. Most cars have the number stamped on a metal plate attached to the body and the identical number embossed on the body itself. Never buy a vehicle where the numbers have been tampered with as the likelihood is that it has been stolen.
Modern day cars officially sold in the UK have 17 digit VIN numbers, the first letter identifies the country of origin, the last five or six digits are the serial numbers. In between is information on the vehicles features such as type of body, engine and transmission.
Unofficial or personal imports have shorter numbers but the important thing is to check the VIN numbers from the vehicle and compare it to the V5 document. The very latest cars have VIN numbers on stickers on major components such as the ECU, alarm units, bodywork and possibly entertainment systems. These stickers if removed cannot be refitted and reduce the chances of stealing the vehicle or parts. VIN numbers are often etched onto the glass of a vehicle, so check that each number corresponds.
The engine and transmission have their own separate numbers and the former is usually recorded on the V5 document. Unless the engine has been changed for some reason, the numbers should correspond.

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.

There are a few tricks car dealers can sometimes play and you need to be aware of them. Never walk into a car showroom or display area not knowing what you want to buy. Car sales people will ask you what you are looking for. If you just answer, a small cheap car, they will try and off load you with something that has been sitting around for a while.
Tell them exactly which make & model you want, size of engine, low mileage, price etc.
Ask if they give discounts, if they are not prepared to 'deal', walk away and find someone who does. Nobody pays the asking price these days for a used car and if your seller isn't willing to negotiate, someone else will. Remember, never ask the car sales person for advice on which model to choose, they are only interested in a sale regardless how good or bad a particular car is.
If you intend to borrow money to buy a car try and get some quotes before you look at any cars. Garages will make as much money from your loan as the profit from the vehicle. So it is important to compare their figures to your own when the time comes to discuss finance.
If they ask, what you want to pay each month, a devious sales person will very quickly work out a monthly figure to suit them, not you. Beware of dealers who give you a quote over two years which you are not happy with and then reduce the monthly quote but over a longer period of time. Sometimes you end up paying more over the entire period of the loan although the monthly figure is actually lower.
When you compare quotes, always check to see what you are actually getting, some include credit insurance and some don't.
If you already have a loan and the garage states that they will clear your old loan with a new loan, beware. All they will do is take your old loan and add to the new one and you could end up paying interest on top of interest which raises the total you have to pay. The simple answer to this is pay off your debts before you bring out a new loan.

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?
• How many owners has the vehicle had since new?
• Why are they selling it?
• What is the current mileage?
• Is there any outstanding finance on the vehicle?
• When does the MOT & road tax expire?
• What is the general condition of the vehicle?
• Has it been involved in an accident?
• Has it been modified in any way?
• Is there a service history & is it documented?

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.

When buying a car worth thousands of pounds it is advisable to have it professionally checked over, but when it's worth little money in the first place many don't bother. My theory is simple; it may be little money to some but a lot of money to you. It is worth paying someone to inspect a car for peace of mind if you think the car is worth buying. However, you still have to pay to have the car inspected if it turns out that the car is not roadworthy. It can become an expensive and tiresome business spending money on inspections and getting nowhere, but only you can decide on that.
If you do decide to have it professional inspected and you are buying from a garage they will usually give you a few days to get an inspection organised. However with private sales most sellers don't have the patience and they may agree to hold back the sale until inspected but sell it to the first buyer that comes along.
The best answer is to find someone with mechanical experience to inspect the car with you and save yourself a lot of valuable time and money.

This section is boring but I need to explain some of the more important points when checking over a car.

Before you inspect a vehicle it is advisable to take a torch, magnet, small screwdriver, pen and paper. If you intend to look under the vehicle yourself, then add a decent jack and support stand for safety.
Remember don't go alone, even if the person with you has no knowledge of cars they are a witness to any false promises or information.

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.

Once you're happy with the paperwork its time to look at the car, the ideal situation is to check the vehicle over when it is cold or left from an overnight situation. Walk around the car taking notice of the bodywork for damage and paintwork condition, look for the gaps between body panels, are they consistent? Anything up to 5-8mm is an industry standard. Place your magnet on the body of the car, if it doesn't stick (metal parts only, not plastic parts), it is probably been repaired with filler.
Look at the general condition of the car, are there any cracked or broken lamps or mirrors, missing badges and mouldings and look at the condition of the wheels for damage on the rims. At this stage try and ignore the luxury items fitted to the vehicle as it will distract you from more important things, wait until you are satisfied with the condition of the car before looking at these items.

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.

Switch on the ignition and ensure that all the waning lamps are illuminated in particular the ones for the air bag, ABS and engine check lamp malfunction and oil pressure. Some unscrupulous people will remove a bulb to hide an expensive problem that they are not willing to repair. If you are not sure, check the handbook as a reference. Check the mileage readings; do they look as if they have been tampered with?
Switch on the engine, how quickly and easy did it start, was it sluggish to start indicating a problem? As the engine fires up, look for any blue smoke in the mirror from the exhaust indicating a trace of burning oil or excessive black smoke.
Whilst it is running, check all the electrical features in the car, wipers, heated rear window lights etc. Switch the heating on to the hot position and ensure all fan speeds are working, leave it on the fastest speed. Whilst in the driver's seat, check the security of the seat and ensure it adjusts correctly, check operation of all the seat belts and the security and operation of all seats.
Check the carpets for excessive wear and water ingress; lift up rubber or carpet mats to inspect them, check the headlining for security and general condition. Also, check all rear view and door mirrors for adjustment and make sure all windows operate correctly.
Before leaving the interior give the heater a chance to heat up, check that heat is coming through all the vents and outlets and that the temperature gauge is working correctly and that the vehicle is not overheating. Before you switch off, leave the vehicle running for a few minutes and then press the accelerator quickly to the floor once, any trace of burning oil will result in a blue cloud of smoke coming out of the exhaust. Clouds of white smoke on a turbo charged vehicle whilst it is running usually indicate failure of the turbo charger. Excessive black smoke on a diesel could result in failure of the injectors or worse still the injector pump. Any of these concerns will be expensive to repair and you would be advised to walk away from the vehicle.

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.

Study the condition of the front wheel rim for damage and the tyre for excessive wear, bulges and cracks on the sidewalls. Use your torch to check all the 'nooks and crannies' under the front wing for any signs of botched up repairs or corrosion. If in doubt use your magnet to see if it sticks to any repairs, if it doesn't, walk away as the repair maybe carried out with plastic filler, total unsuitable for body and chassis repairs.
Any corrosion within 12" of a load bearing area must be correctly welded and not patched up with filler. Incidentally, a load bearing area is where a main suspension component is attached; any weakness here would cause catastrophic consequences.
Repeat these procedures on all four corners of the vehicle, at the rear check the operation of the handbrake and ensure it is releasing.

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.

Try and carry out a lengthy road test at various speeds and conditions. Sometimes it's easier said than done, looking at a car in the middle of a big city close to peak traffic hours can be difficult but a road test is essential as it is your last chance to assess the car properly.
Before moving off, get yourself comfortable with the controls and seat, it takes a little while to get used to a strange car especially if you have never driven one before.
As you drive off with the seller next to you, try and ignore any comments he or she makes as it becomes a distraction. Concentrate on the car, pay particular attention to the steering; does it wander to one side or worse still, pull to one side?
When you brake, does the pedal feel good and does the vehicle stop in a straight line? Does the performance feel adequate for the size of the engine and do you hear excessive engine or transmission noise?
Does the vehicle change gear without any difficulties or does it jump out of gear when you decelerate? If an automatic vehicle, check for gear changes and check if the 'kick down' operates without any problems.
If you sit in traffic keep an eye on the temperature gauge and make sure the cooling fan cuts in. If you are parked on a hill, try out the handbrake and make sure it holds the vehicle on an incline without any difficulty.
At speed listen for noisy wheel bearings, a noise that will alter when you drive around a corner as you change the load of the car from one side to the other.
As you drive over bumpy road conditions, listen out for excessive noises, in particular, knocking noises from the suspension and steering.

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.

I (the sellers name), of (the sellers address) confirm that I am the legal owner of the vehicle (make & model) and (registration number). I confirm that the vehicle does not have any defects which I have not disclosed and the recorded mileage of (miles) is correct. I have agreed to carry out the following work at my expense before sale. Sign and date contract.

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.

If you return at a later time or date to conclude the deal and before you hand over any money, ask to briefly inspect the car once again. Many unscrupulous sellers will change parts on the car after you have decided to buy it. They normally go for the easy to change items like tyres, radio, and the battery. Just make sure the car is sold to you as it was inspected and should you have any doubts, inform the seller why you have changed your mind and walk away.
If it is a private sale then a receipt still needs to be made up with the basic details written on it.

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.

Happy motoring.

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Comments on this review

  • supercityfan published 05/03/2009
    Brilliant review on anything and everything you would ever need to know.
  • anonymili published 09/10/2008
    A really fabulous guide! I've never bought a 2nd car car before as I just don't trust other people's driving. Have always had new company cars in the past and in recent years have bought new cars. A very well deserved diamond for this though. Superb! x
  • majeedkazi published 03/10/2008
    great review.....
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Product Information : Buying A Second Hand Car

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