You can save a great deal of money buying a second-hand car. It is a fact that most new cars depreciate by as much as 40% in the first year. That being the case, it is easy to see why many people prefer to buy relatively new but used cars, rather than going brand new from a showroom,
However, there are some potential pitfalls that come with buying second-hand: after all, if you buy new, you know that you are the first owner and that you have the full manufacturer warranty to back you up. If you buy used, how can you be sure the seller is telling you everything you need to know?
Here are some very best tips on what to do when buying a used vehicle, and how you can be sure you are getting a car that is legitimate and will serve you well. We will start by advising you how to make sure your vehicle is all it seems to be.
The Vehicle Identification Number
This is the VIN code, a number that is given to every vehicle manufactured across the world that is unique. It is, in effect, the vehicle’s fingerprint, as no two vehicles can have the same VIN. It tells you where your car was made, who made it, what type of vehicle it is, and can be used to check for warranty claims and other incidences in the history of the car. Most importantly, it MUST match that shown on the registration document that comes with the car when you purchase it. You can find the VIN on a metal plate either inside the car or on the inner bodywork under the bonnet – compare it before you buy.
Car Data Check
Some of the information your car’s VIN can give you can be accessed by a Car Data Check; you will have to pay a small amount to get such a check done – the service is offered by a number of providers – but to say it is worth it is an understatement: it is a necessity, especially if you are spending a lot of money on your used car.
One of the most common tricks in the motor trade is that of ‘clocking’; this is the act of falsifying the mileage of a vehicle, so that it appears to have covered less than it has. This can be checked by comparing MOT certificates – if the owner claims not to have them, walk away – and also by the data check.
A less common but perhaps more alarming problem is that of ‘cloning’; this has been known to happen with more expensive vehicles, and occurs when the number plate of one car is substituted for a vehicle of identical or similar specifications. Make sure you check for this before you buy, as you could otherwise end up with a dangerous or unroadworthy vehicle.
Also use the data check to look for evidence of a ‘cut and shut’; this is a very dangerous practice in which accident-damaged cars are used to create a vehicle that claims to be something it is not; a data check – and the VIN code – should give you a clear indication of the true identity of the vehicle.
Viewing and Service History
Never buy a used car without seeing it first. Arrange a viewing – whether you are buying privately or from a dealer – and make sure it is in daylight.
Insist on seeing evidence of the car’s service history; if this is not forthcoming, then look elsewhere. There can be no reason for denying a buyer access to such information if there is nothing to hide. The service history may show evidence of persistent faults; if this is the case, you need to know why such has not been rectified. Cars do need maintenance over the years, so make sure you are fully aware of what has been carried out on the vehicle.
In the UK, a car should come with a V5C registration document; note that this does not denote the owner, but the registered keeper. If the keeper and owner are not the same, you need to know why. There could be many legitimate reasons – a dealer, perhaps, selling on someone’s behalf – but it is vital you check. You might also want to contact the previous keepers – also listed on the V5C – as they may be able to enlighten you as to the history of the vehicle.
These are just a few points that are important when buying a used car; we strongly advise you to view more than one, to check details carefully and – if you are not mechanically minded – to take someone along with you when you check out the vehicle.
Simon Barker is a car fan who enjoys his driving, and who also writes for www.bestreviewer.co.uk on a variety of subjects.