Buying a Used Car Checklist

Buying a Used Car Checklist

When you’re buying a car, whether it’s brand new or a few years old, you’ll doubtless want to know you’re getting a good deal, so that’s why, when a used car has caught your eye, having a buying a used car checklist is so important. And we just so happen to have one ready for you to make the most of!

Often people prefer a car that is over three years old, as the percentage of the value it holds can be greater after a few years. While the thought of having a new car can be appealing, new cars can drop in value by almost half in the first year of being on the road, so it’s a factor to weigh up when considering what you’ll be investing in.

When you’re thinking of buying a used car, it can be among one of the best or worst decisions you make – so, are you aware of all the things you should check before handing over the cash?

Read our guide below for tips on buying a used car and be better informed before the test drive.

Where should you buy from?

There are several different ways to buy a used to car, for instance from a main dealer, independent garage, private seller or auction. Each option comes with its own pluses and minuses, however one thing remains the same – that you should always be fully aware of exactly what it is you’re buying and have a very real picture of the condition it’s in.

When going to buy a used car from a private seller, for example, it pays to have much more knowledge about car maintenance than is necessary when buying from a main dealership and independent garage. That’s because the person selling the car to you might not have much knowledge about the vehicle themselves, or even worse, looking to hide certain faults in order to secure a sale.

Larger companies offer more security and are more likely to give a car a thorough inspection before you drive it away and offer a good warranty (usually six or 12 months). They’ll also be more likely to be concerned about preserving their reputation than someone selling a car from their driveway.

On the other hand, private sellers are often much cheaper than buying from dealerships or independent garages, because they don’t have the overheads to cover.

So if you know what you’re looking for in a used car and are a dab hand at spotting any faults, then this can often be a great bargain too. Similarly, when buying from an auction, it’s vital that you have the right vehicle know-how before taking the plunge and getting out your chequebook.

What to consider before buying

So, what should you think about before buying a car? Firstly, take a realistic look at your budget and establish what you can afford to pay each month if you’re buying a used car on finance.

Do your research and be aware of what similar cars are going for on the market, so you know you’re getting a good deal. Then, when you go to see the car, you should check the following:

The paperwork

  • V5C logbook – is the registered keeper the person selling you the car? Do the registration and chassis numbers match up?
  • MOT and service history – are these up to date?
  • Does the cambelt need replacing? This can be a necessary, yet costly job, so take a look in the service book. Was it replaced when it was supposed to be?
  • Does the mileage on the car seem consistent with its age and appearance? Check recorded mileage on service records.

The car itself

  • Inspect the car carefully in good daylight – this is the best way to spot any nasty dents, scratches, signs that the colour has been changed etc.
  • Check the condition and tread on the tyres – the legal minimum is 1.6mm, so if they’re heading that way, or below 3mm, you might be replacing the tyres very soon.
  • Does the car come with all the extras, such as a spare wheel, handbook, jack and spare keys?
  • Check the engine for leaks, oil level, head gasket condition and exhaust smoke.

On your test drive

  • Take it for a lengthy test drive and look out for funny noises, whether the steering pulls to one side, if there’s smoke coming from the exhaust and whether it starts ok.
  • Do the lights and windscreen washers all work properly?
  • Do the warning lights come on as they should with the ignition and then go out again?
  • Are the brakes effective in general and for an emergency stop?
  • Does the gearbox and clutch operate the way it should – any strange noises?
  • Do all the locks and electric windows work correctly?
  • Does the air conditioning, radio, satnav and all the other extras work the way they’re supposed to? Check all the vehicle’s electrics.

Take a good look over the car you’ve seen –  ask yourself questions that apply to your needs, such as is the boot big enough? Can you fit the family in the car? Is it comfortable? What sort of condition is it in generally inside and out.

What to be aware of


Always look out for any vehicles which might have been clocked (mileage doesn’t add up with service history), cloned (registration number is different from the one on the logbook), or even worse, cut and shut (two or more pieces of different cars welded together). If you are unsure of how to spot these things, then it is often worth getting a professional eye to look over the car before you buy it. Also make sure of the following if you can:

  • If using cash, always bear safety in mind – only take money to somewhere you know is safe. When in doubt, arrange a bank transfer.
  • Get the terms of the sale agreed in writing.
  • Ask for a receipt signed by the vendor and yourself.

Bought a used car recently and need it looking at?

If you have bought a used car recently and are a bit worried that it might not be everything you were led to believe it was, then get in touch with our highly trained mechanics to give you the peace of mind that you need. We can give you an honest and experienced opinion on the safety of the car and whether there is any work that should be done.

Contact the Mobile Garage People Today

Buying a used car can be a concern when you can never be 100% sure of the authenticity of what you’re paying for. Looks can be deceptive and underlying problems can sometimes be easy to hide.

Get in touch with us at the Mobile Garage People today to book your appointment, have your MOT done if necessary and rest easy in the knowledge that your car is in safe hands. And remember, if you can’t get to a garage, then we’re the people who can come to you, wherever in the East Midlands you are because we’re local to the surrounding area!

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