Essential Checks when Buying a Used Car

Buying a second hand car from a dealership or private buyer can represent the best value when it comes to making an automobile purchase. But there are some essential checks that need to be performed in order to make sure the car you buy is right for you.

Buying a used car is an excellent way to get a good car at a decent price. As long as you perform some thorough checks on the car, and ask the right questions, you will end up owning a car that is far better value than many new cars.  Being aware of the checks to perform and researching the car will help you to avoid ending up with a second hand car that may cause you problems in the future.

Buy from a reputable used car dealership if at all possible. You’ll have the best protection as a consumer at a dealership. You will also have a nice selection of cars and may even have financing opportunities you wouldn’t get with a private seller. However, sometimes you may see an ad in the paper or online for a car being sold by a private seller that you just can’t resist going to see. You’ve got to be careful with private sellers. If you have enough information about the seller to look him or her up online, do so. This may reveal warning flags such arrest records or prior complaints about them from other car buyers. 

When you go to look at the car, be sure you inspect it thoroughly and take it for a test drive. Ask to see any documentation of prior accidents or repairs regarding the car. Finally, if you just get a bad vibe from the seller, walk away. Another car will come along. Only buy from a private seller if you’re absolutely sure they can be trusted.

Don’t be afraid to test drive the car a few times to make sure you are really comfortable. Any seller or dealership should be happy to accommodate your request, especially as it’s a clear indication that you are serious about making the purchase. If your automobile and mechanical knowledge is limited – find a friend or family member that is more knowledgeable and take them along to inspect the car with you. This should help you avoid being convinced by the previous owner or dealership to buy the car despite it’s mechanical faults. Bringing someone along with you will also give you more confidence to ask all the right questions and complete all of the proper inspections on the car.

Whether you’re buying from a private seller or a dealer, there are some basic questions you should ask about any used car you’re considering for purchase. Ask about mileage, prior recalls, ownership history of the car, prior accidents and repair work, and any current problems with the car. If you’re buying from a private seller, be sure to also ask the following questions:

How fast is the car typically driven?

What has been its average annual mileage?

What is the longest drive the car has ever taken? How did it do on the drive?

Is the car stored inside or outside?

Why is the car being sold?

Has the car ever been in any serious accidents, and the details of the accident?

How efficient is the car – how many miles to the gallon does it do?

After you ask your questions, be sure to conduct a thorough inspection of the car. This is necessary whether you’re buying from a dealer or a private seller. Any reasonable dealer or seller will allow you to do this if they have nothing to hide. Look for dings in the body, scratches in the paint job, and any other minor flaws that might indicate prior accidents. Look under the hood with a torch and check for loose or broken parts. Open all of the car doors to check for damage and test all electric functions such as automatic windows and locks, air conditioning, and the sound system. Ask about anything that looks suspicious or that doesn’t work properly.


It would be wise to also ask about the fuel efficiency of the car. You don’t want to find yourself buying a car, that despite being very cheap initially, ends up costing a fortune to run because it’s miles to the gallon ratio is very high. Most new cars run on an average of 24.5 miles to the gallon. The older to car is, the less fuel efficient it is likely to be – but try to avoid any car than runs on less than around 20 miles per gallon.

You can talk most dealers and private sellers down on their asking price if you find any damage to the car that wasn’t advertised. This is true no matter how minor the damage may be. Do some research before you visit the dealership or private seller to find out the market value of the car. There are plenty of sites online that will allow you to enter details of any car to return an estimated worth value of the car. The retuned value will give you a starting point for negotiations. Most sellers are willing to lower the price to make a sale, especially if they can see you are knowledgeable about the car.

Finally, always ask to see documentation. Look at accident and previous repair reports if they are available. Look at the title to see the car’s sales history. For a small fee you can check a car’s whole back history using just the car’s registration number. This sort of check will be tell you if the car has ever been or is reported stolen, the number of previous owners it has had, how much the mileage should be along with lots of other details of the car. If you have these details before you make an offer on the car – you may be able to use them to ask for further discount on the car. 

Try to be as vigilant as possible and carry out all of the checks recommended above for every used car you consider purchasing. It may mean saying no to a car that you might have had your heart set on, or taking a bit longer to make the purchase – but you will reap the benefits on the long run of having a reliable car that won’t cause you problems down the line.


Advice provided by Liverpool SEAT – New & Used Car Dealership in Liverpool

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