What to check when buying a used car

What you need to know when buying a used car, so you can avoid the risks and buy in confidence.

You need to buy a second hand car and want to get the best car for your budget. You've seen some cars you like but you don't know how to make sure you make the right choice…

What to do

  1. Set your budget
    Buy a used car price guide so you can check the market price of any car you look at.
  2. Choose your seller
    Buying a second hand car from a dealer will be more expensive than a private sale but less risky. Most dealers provide a warranty and service cars before a sale.
  3. Take a test drive
    Try to cover both town driving and faster open roads. Test the steering, brakes and gears, listening for any odd noises as you drive. If you're buying privately, get the owner to take you out.
  4. Test the electrics
    As a minimum make sure the lights, electric windows, wipers and horn work properly, but try to test all dashboard and steering controls.
  5. Examine the bodywork and tyres
    Check for rust, dents and tyre tread. Beware of any discoloured panels, which may point to a previous repair.
  6. Read the paperwork
    Make sure the service history, MOT, chassis number and mileage match. Check the log book (or V5) is in the keeper's name.
  7. Before you buy, get a car data check
    This will tell you if a used car has been stolen, written off or has outstanding finance.
  8. Consider getting a second opinion
    Take along a knowledgeable friend or book an RAC Vehicle Inspection.

Avoid it

Avoid being pressurised into buying a used car. If you're not 100% sure on the car, walk away – there will always be more to see.

Don't buy a car from a private seller in a public place. View it at their home so you can see the address matches the V5 keeper's document.

Try to avoid paying the asking price on a used car and don't be afraid to haggle – many sellers will be expecting it.

More information

Browse RAC Cars for more information and advice on buying a used car.

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