Buying a used car can save you a lot of money compared to buying new. Used cars are a lot more reliable than they used to be. Improved mileage data, write-off records and vehicle identity markings make it harder for people to sell you an old banger. You’ll never be 100% confident when buying a used car, but following our simple checklist will hopefully reduce the chance of you having any nasty surprises.


Bodywork Checks

One of the first things you’ll check is the car’s bodywork. Look for any scratches, dents, signs of repainting or replacement panels that might suggest the model has been in an accident. You’re buying this car, so don’t be afraid to check as much as you need. Look for signs of rust. Rust will begin by bubbling under the paint. Left unchecked, it can force the paint off and can eventually rust through, so it’s worth getting it fixed

Wheels And Tyres

New car tyres can be expensive. Check the tread on all 4 tyres and the spare tyre, the tread should be at least 1.6mm around the tyre. If it looks as though any need changing, look at getting a discount. As well as the tread, check for cuts, gauges, and bulges.


Check for tears in the upholstery, and any missing parts. Does all the equipment work? The radio, air con, lights, indicators, windows and the central locking. If it all works, great! If not, ask for some money off the car to pay for repairs. While you’re in there, check for any engine warning lights. Switch on the lights and walk around the car to check they are working correctly and not starting to dim.


Engine maintenance is essential. Look for leaks and puddles around the car. a well maintained engine shouldn’t be leaking. A lot of people forget to check the oil when buying a car, ensure the dipstick reading is at the correct level and the oil is not discoloured or the wrong consistency. Switch on the engine and and check the exhaust for smoke. A small amount of smoke when starting the engine is usually nothing to worry amount, black smoke is usually caused by the engine burning too much fuel.


You should be able to change gears easily. The gearstick should enter all gears quietly and smoothly. Any sort of resistance or grinding noise indicate a problem.

Test Drive

This is a must. Have the seller come with you and go through up through the gears to try the car at a variety of speeds. Test how reactive the brakes are. Listen out for any rattles or sounds that could become a problem down the line.


Check past MOT certificates, the Car’s handbook and the service/log book. Check the car’s history for the work carried out and parts fitted. Double check the milage on the dashboard to the milage in the documents.

If you are after more piece of mind, you can pay to have the car checked to see if it has been stolen, written off, or has been subject to outstanding finance.

Remember to haggle

You’ve done a thorough check, and taken then car for a test drive. With all that in mind, do you want to pay the list price? Whether it’s a dealer or private seller, they will expect you to haggle.

Dealers may not take much money off, so get them to include things for free. The dealer may include floor mats or a sat nav to get the deal done. Depending on circumstances, private sellers are as likely to want to sell the vehicle as you are likely to buy it. Remember this when making your offer.

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