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Used Vehicle Purchase Checklist

Documentation Checks

Vehicle Checks

General Areas to Check

Test Drive


Documentation Checks

V5C Registration Document

  • It is a legal requirement for the seller to have / provide a V5C registration document.
  • Check to see if the seller is the registered keeper – If not why?
    Are they the legal owner?  Can ‘title’ be passed on if bought?
  • Check vehicle details on document match those of the car – Registration number, chassis number & engine number, colour, make/model
  • Take a note of the document serial and reference number – Required when completing HPI check and ‘on-line’ MOT verification.
  • Check the document for spelling errors and for water mark

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MOT Certificate

  • All vehicles three years of age and older require an MOT Certificate.
  • Check the vehicle details on the certificate, issue / expiry dates and vehicle mileage history for continuity.
  • The current certificates are printed on plain white paper and are easily doctored. Vehicle MOT Certification verification can be done on-line at www.gov.uk/check-mot-status-vehicle or by phone on VOSA’s MOT status line 0870 330 0444. You will need the vehicle registration number and either the MOT Test Number (printed on the VT20 Test Certificate and VT30 Refusal Certificate) or the V5C Document Reference Number.

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Service History

  • Check to ensure the service history provided relates to the vehicle.
  • Check the PDI details – a foreign endorsement stamp may indicate the vehicle has been imported.
  • Look for alterations and signs of ‘tamperment’.
  • Check the service history is complete and up to date – Extended intervals between routine servicing and missed servicing may increase internal engine / transmission component wear that may not be detectable at the present time.

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Vehicle History Check

  • Carry out an HPI Check to see if the vehicle is registered as having been subject to a major insurance claim, is stolen, has outstanding finance on it or is marked with a mileage discrepancy.

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Vehicle Checks

Vehicle Identification

  • VIN Number – Modern vehicles will have the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or chassis number in at least two places on the vehicle. Check to ensure the stamped number in the vehicle body matches that on the VIN Plate / Sticker. Neither should show evidence of be detectable and both should match that recorded on the V5C Document. Some vehicles also have the number displayed on a tag in the windscreen.
  • Registration / Number Plates – Check conformity, condition and security
  • Do VIN / Registration Numbers etched on glass and lights match that of the vehicle and V5C
  • Mileage - Check the recorded mileage against the service and MOT history along with any repair invoices that may be available for discrepancy.
  • Check the dash panel for signs of instrument disturbance. However, digital odometers can be adjusted electronically and will not exhibit witness marks of alterations.

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Bodywork /Accident Damage

  1. Check panels for damage, distortion, mis- alignment, uneven gaps and security. Compare panel joints / seams for conformity. Variance may indicate repair or panel replacement.
  2. Check paint finish for defect, colour variation, consistency, masking lines, preparation marks, adhesion, corrosion and over spray on trim, handles, window seals etc
  3. Check bumpers for damage, security and repair. Could a repaired bumper be masking body damage behind?

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Under Bonnet

  1. Check engine oil – Level, condition/contamination, leakage (Remove filler cap for inspection. Emulsification or sludging may indicate poor maintenance, coolant seepage, and short journeys
  2. Check Coolant – Level, condition/contamination, leakage
  3. Check Brake / Clutch Fluid – Level, condition / contamination, leakage
  4. Check Automatic Transmission Fluid – Level, condition / contamination, leakage
  5. Visually check hoses, for condition, routing, security, leakage
  6. Visually check wiring for condition, routing security
  7. Check body panels for damage, corrosion, repair
  8. Check engine for excessive noise. Listen carefully for the first few seconds – Brief knocks and rattles indicate a concern. However these can be masked when the engine is warm and oil has reached all the main components. So beware if the engine has been ‘pre-warmed’

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General Areas to Check

  1. Wheels/Tyres - Condition damage/abnormal wear, security, tread depths, pressures, tyre markings/compatibility; uneven wear may indicate steering / suspension wear or alignment issues.
  2. Exhaust - Condition, security leakage. Check for recent emissions test either possibly with as part of MOT.
  3. Lights - Operation, condition, security, cleanliness, adjustment (Electronic load controls)
  4. Wipers - Operation, condition, security (Including headlamp)
  5. Washers - Operation, security, fluid level and additives
  6. Glass - Condition, MOT standards, Tint advice (i.e. not on front side windows or front screen) Window operation – use of rear passenger window isolation switch when children on board, sun roof operation
  7. Demisters - Operation, Condition
  8. Mirrors - Operation, condition, security, adjustment
  9. Locks - Operation Remote & Manual locking, security, (Including child locks) Are all keys present correct and working? Modern keys can be expensive to replace and some manufacturers use a ‘master key ‘to programme new keys. Check the hand book!
  10. Seat Belts - Condition, security, operation, adjustment
  11. Seats - Condition, security, adjustment (Including Head restraints)
  12. Luggage Area / Tool Kit - Condition security, operation, inflation kit date markings, pump, locking wheel nut key, warning triangles spare bulb kit etc...
  13. Warning Lamps / Messages - Consult the handbook – Check to ensure all relevant warning lamps illuminate when ignition switched ‘on’ and extinguish when engine started. Also check vehicle VDU for error log / fault messages. Take your time do not be hurried by the vendor. If a warning lamp stays lit after engine start-up it is most likely the vehicle has a fault.
  14. Horn - Operation

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Test Drive

  1. Check for excessive exhaust emissions
    - White water vapour.    
    - Blue smoke burning oil.        
    - Black smoke incorrect combustion.
  2. Listen for abnormal noise – Engine, transmission, suspension
  3. Check clutch pedal operation is smooth along with gear selection.
  4. Check clutch operation for slippage and drag.
  5. Are the brakes effective? Does the pedal operation feel ‘soft’ or too hard?
  6. Does the vehicle brake in straight line?
  7. Is the parking bake effective? Will it hold the car on an incline?
  8. Does the steering ‘pull’ to one side? Can a vibration be felt?
  9. Check operation of all controls and warning lamps including I.C.E Equipment, SAT NAV, Heating Ventilation, Air conditioning, Reverse Cameras & Parking Aids

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