How to buy a car

Recently, I purchased a new-to-me (used) car. Unfortunately, after I purchased it there was something wrong with it. It wasn’t a costly repair but annoying nonetheless. And there are a lot of horror stories of buying used cars. So, I decided to put together a checklist (for myself mostly) that I can run through whenever buying a car (or helping someone else to).

The list

Before you view the car

  • [] Check the MOT History - ask the seller if the minor defects have been addressed
  • [] Review common faults with the car for the mileage - ask the seller if they have been addressed
  • [] Check if it has a service history and who with (dealer service history is better) - I wouldn’t recommend buying a car without a service history.
  • [] Get an insurance quote on the car - can you afford it?
  • [] Check the vehicle tax
  • [] Do a HPI check on the car

When viewing the car

  • [] Check the tyre tread depth - if it’s low, you can factor in the cost for new tyres as a negotiation point
  • [] Check the service history paper work and the electronic service history (if available).
  • [] Check all the interior functions work - AC, Radio, Bluetooth, Steering wheel controls, wipers, windscreen washer, all lights.
  • [] Check the boot to make sure the spare tyre/repair kit is there.
  • [] Check the engine bay for any leaks or damage.
  • [] Check fluid levels in the engine bay - coolant, oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid etc.
  • [] Make sure the oil cap isn’t milky - this could indicate a head gasket failure.
  • [] Check the bodywork for any damage.
  • [] Turn the wheel all the way to the left and right to check for any clicking noises.
  • [] Turn the steering wheel each way and check the tie rods and ball joints
  • [] Make sure both keys work
  • [] Give the car a test drive - make sure it can rev high, no warning lights appear and the breaks are responsive. If possible, make sure that the parking break holds the car on a hill.
  • [] After test driving leave the car idle, make sure the idle sounds smooth and underneath the car there are no leaks.
  • [] Check the VIN of the car matches the V5C
  • [] Examine how clean the car is inside and the condition of the interior, usually this is a good sign of the cars care.
  • [] Examine the brand of tyres the car has, if they are budget tyres and/or don’t all match then this may be a sign the car has been maintained on a tight budget.


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