Tips for buying a used car


Buying a used car?  How can we make sure we’re getting a good deal and not a rust bucket? Suzanne Keane has some tips

When buying a car it’s important to research what you need, what you can afford and also what the common problems with your chosen model are! The tips below will give you an idea of what to look out for when buying second hand –

1. Mileage

Check this against the most recent NCT cert. Look at the interior wear and tear to see if it is in keeping with the mileage. It’s a good idea to check out a few of the same cars to get an idea of condition.

2. Bodywork

If the car isn’t clean walk away. Dirt could be hiding scratches, dents, rust or shoddy repairs. If you were selling your car would you not want it looking its best? Look underneath the car too for any signs of rust or damage. Make sure all the panels line up correctly and that the paint is the same colour and consistency all over.

3. Engine

If you’re not buying a show car and the engine bay is clean be very wary! There’s a good chance it’s been cleaned to hide a leak or some other problem. Check the oil, coolant and other fluid levels and open the oil cap to check the condition of the oil – if there are any white residues, brown sludge or the oil has lumps walk away!

buyingusedcar14. Tyres

Have a look at the tread depth as well as the general condition of the tyres. Uneven wear can signal suspension issues or if they are just generally worn it could be a sign of a car that isn’t looked after.

5. Electrics

Make sure everything is working as it should – turn on the a/c or fans at full and make sure everything is in working order.

6. Doors

Open and close all locks, doors, windows to make sure there aren’t any issues. Keep an eye out for any signs of water leaks, paint on door rubbers/windows or uneven door shuts.

7. Test Drive

Get a friend to watch the exhaust when you start the car. Any blue or white smoke can be a sign of trouble. The engine should idle smoothly and rev evenly. You should be able to switch between gears smoothly without any grinding noises. If the clutch is too stiff or weak that could be a sign of trouble.

On the road the steering wheel should rotate easily. Listen out for any strange noises (turn off that radio) and be especially aware of any unusual road noise or vibrations.

Test the brakes and make sure they are responsive and without excessive vibrations or any noise. It’s also a good idea to test out the handbrake on a hillstart!

We have some more tips on how to test drive a car here

Finally if you’re not 100% confident in your own ability to test a car bring a friend who is. Otherwise it’s a good idea to bring the car to a trusted mechanic for a full checkup before handing over any cash!

Check out our tips for spotting a dodgy dealer from last week here


Suzanne Keane 

18th November, 2020




Author: Suzanne Keane

A confirmed petrol head with a penchant for Retro VW’s, Suzanne has been taking apart (and sometimes putting back together) her own cars for years! You can follow Suzanne on Twitter at @_suzannekeane

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