checklist for buying a car

Millions of Brits buy second hand cars each year. Here is our checklist for when are considering your next car purchase.

Dealership or private seller?

Why fall in love with a car before you have the finance together? We don’t go and view a house without a mortgage in place – so why do we do this with cars? It’s a great idea to get your finance organised before you miss out on the car of your dreams. Step into a dealership already approved with motorly.

Generally speaking, dealerships are more expensive, but they can offer additional benefits. They can often offer a part-exchange, and a warranty. Which means you can be more confident that the car has been checked and won’t breakdown.

However, you might pay a better price by buying from a private seller, but you are responsible for checking that the car is in good working order. It would be advisable to hire a mechanic to check it for you, but this could be expensive and of course inconvenient and costly.

When you are ready to buy another car you can step into a trusted dealership with your finance approved with no impact on your credit score. Know where you stand when you’re looking at cars so that the dealer can’t upsell you. This can take you out of your price range, which happens often. Going in with a plan is the best way to be prepared and happy with your car finance deal.


What should you look out for?

There are a few things you need to look for when shopping for a used car

✅ V5C registration document – make you get the V5C registration document, and this tells you who the registered owner is. Make sure it is genuine, and check for any spelling mistakes, along with making sure the number plate and vehicle identification number (VIN) are the same on the car and this form. There should be a watermark and the V5C to ensure authentication

✅ Exterior paintwork – the first impression is usually the right one. Check the paintwork for subtle differences in colour, as this could be a sign of repairs, look for rust, or bubbled paintwork, and check that all doors, windows, bonnet and boot open and close properly

✅ Suspension – give the car a good bounce, pushing down on all four corners, ensure the car bounces back smoothly, if it doesn’t you could be in for a rough ride

✅ Tyres – check for decent tread, if there is less than 3mm then you are going to need to replace them before long (1.6mm is the legal limit). Check the spare wheel and puncture repair kit, along with everything you need to change a tyre

✅ Interior – check the seat belts, that they all plugin and work correctly

✅ Horn, windscreen washers and wipers

✅ Note any warning lights

✅ Heating and air conditioning, radio, sat-nav etc

✅ Adjustment of seats and headrests

✅ Under the bonnet check for any oil leaks. Check the coolant, this should be the same colour as antifreeze, not rusty, brown or discoloured


Test drive the car

We recommend you should always test drive a car and make sure it runs as it should. Listen for any dubious sounds when starting the engine. If it’s manual, get a feel for how the clutch and gears feel. If it’s an automatic, listen out for how the gear shifting sounds.

Check the brakes work properly, they shouldn’t make any noise when braking, and obviously, they should bring you to a stop effortlessly. And then check the handbrake works properly. If you are happy with all of the areas we’ve highlighted, then you can go ahead and buy the car.

There are many options open to you when buying a car, it can get confusing! We’re here to help you at motorly. Use our calculator below to see which options are open to you

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    motorly is a credit broker, not a lender. Rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances. Representative Example: Borrowing £5,500 over 48 months with a representative APR of 22.9% the amount payable would be £287 a month, with a total cost of credit of £1406 and a total amount payable of £6906.