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Sliding into a brand new car and driving away safe in the knowledge that nothing can possibly go wrong might buy you peace of mind, but new cars don’t come cheap and lose 40% of their value during the first year.

Buying a used car on the other hand, won’t break the bank, and is likely to be just as reliable as a brand new one. However, it pays to do your homework when buying a used car, as there are some pitfalls. So read on to find out what to look out for when buying a used car.

Set Your Budget

Before setting out to buy a car, always check what the make and model is worth to avoid being overcharged.  Arthur Daly type characters out there can spot someone who doesn’t know what a car is worth across the forecourt, so make sure you know the worth of a car first. If you are planning on borrowing money to buy a car, then you should also look into how much a loan will cost you first. That way, if a used car dealer offers you credit, then you will know if you can get a better deal from borrowing elsewhere.

Service History

Before buying a used car, you should be fully aware of the service history. This tells you that a car has been looked after. However, a service history can also give you clues about the legality of the vehicle. If for example, the car was registered with an owner in Glasgow, but has a history of car servicing in Salisbury at the time, then it’s possible that the car has forged documents and may not belong to the supposed owner.  The service record should also show mileage, and be consistent with the clock.

Used Car Safety

Obviously, you need to make sure that the car you are buying is safe. An MOT declares that a vehicle is roadworthy,  but remember that this is not a cast iron guarantee of safety.  It means that they meet the ‘minimum’ standard required to be considered by the VOSA as roadworthy only at the time of the test. Always get an independent and trusted vehicle expert to check your car over carefully, especially if it’s a private sale.

Legal Checks

To make sure the car you are buying is safe and legal you should always check the following:

  • Before going to see a car, you should check the DVLA online vehicle enquiry service. This tells you what information the DVLA have about a vehicle.
  • Unfortunately, some sellers aren’t always selling a car that belongs to them. So to avoid unwittingly buying a car that has been stolen, always ask the seller to show you the VC5 registration document (log book). You should check this against the vehicle identification number, found on the chassis of the vehicle. Always make sure the log book is watermarked to ensure it is not a forgery.
  • MOT certificates are also easily forged. So always check MOT records through the VOSA website or the MOT enquiry line on 08703 300 444.

Rob Rudd has been driving around the roads of the United Kingdom for the past 20 years. He’s had his fair share of used cars and thinks he’s built up a reasonably good checklist to ensure that you buy safely and legally.