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Used car buying checklist

Do you feel clueless when it comes to buying a car? Find out how to check if your car is stolen and if the mileage has been reset.

Document Checklist:

  • Make sure you get the V5 vehicle registration document. You can’t buy car road tax without it.
  • Is there a watermarks or spelling mistakes on the registration document?
  • Do the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), engine number, number plate and colour match what's on the V5?
  • Make sure you get the V5 vehicle registration document.
  • Check the VIN plate has been stamped on the body or in the engine compartment
  • If there are VIN numbers etched on the glass windows, check they are all the same and match those on the VIN plate and V5 document.

Checking the car before the test drive

A worn tyre
  • Check tyre’s for excessive or uneven wear, and remember that tyres with less than 3mm of tread will have to be replaced soon.
  • Do all the locks and windows operate as they are meant to?
  • Does the mileage roughly tie in with the age and appearance of the car? And does it increase at a consistent rate year on year on the documents
  • Check all seatbelts operate correctly
  • If airbags are fitted, Check that warning lights operate as described in the handbook

Car Checklist: Physical things to avoid

Blue smoke from a petrol car
  • Inconsistent gaps between panels or mismatched colours on panels, which could indicate replacement
  • Uneven paint finish across the car, or traces of spray paint on door handles and seals
  • Visibly looking deliberate scratches on glass windows where etched-in marks may have been removed
  • Any signs of forced damage on the petrol lock
  • Any signs of forced, damaged or different locks that suggest they've been replaced
  • Signs of excessive exhaust emissions.
  • In petrol cars, white water vapor from the exhaust is normal while the engine is cold, but blue smoke is a bad sign of burning oil.
  • In diesel cars, faint blue smoke is fine, but black smoke indicates a serious fault.
  • If you can hear a noise when you press down on the clutch, this could mean the release bearing is worn and likely to fail. If the clutch bites more than halfway up, you may need to have it replaced.
  • When you check the oil, avoid a car with grime under the oil filler cap, as this could indicate poor servicing or short journey use.
  • Stone chips across the front of the bonnet and bumper, as these could indicate excessive long journeys.
avoid a car with grime under the oil filler cap

Checking the car in motion:

  • When the car is started from cold, are there any abnormal noises?
  • As soon as you start the car, the oil warning light should go out immediately
  • When you brake, does it take a long time or a lot of effort to stop?
  • Is the braking even or can you feel the car pull to one side?
  • Are there any unusual noises when you brake?
  • Is the handbrake effective?
  • Is the steering heavy? Can you feel it vibrate or pull to one side?
  • If ABS is fitted, does the warning light go out after the engine is started?


Make sure you read up on our car buying guides and car ownership information, to make your motoring life alot easier

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