common pitfalls when buying a used car

common pitfalls when buying a used car

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Buying a car can be difficult if you’re not sure of the various pitfalls that might come your way. Although we’d like to be able to trust everything a salesperson or supplier says, the fact is that there may be times when the information you get from the dealer is not as honest as it should be. Here, we will look at a few questions that we often get asked so you can have a better idea of how to approach buying a car.

What faults should I look for when buying a used car?

After seeing a car you like and want to buy, you need to be sure that you are purchasing a vehicle that is safe and roadworthy. Oftentimes this means looking around the car for any faults or issues that might end up causing danger to yourself or costing money to repair further down the line.

Check the body of the car for any dents or scratches, and check that there are no uneven gaps between panels. Ensure that paint is even across the car and note if there are sections of bubbling paintwork (this could mean there is untreated rust underneath).

Of course, even if there is damage you can still buy the car with the intention of repairing it over time. Just make sure you are paying the right price for the vehicle, as you will need to spend money on it later. Check the service history and ensure big jobs like the timing belt change was done at the manufacturer recommended time.

What used cars are not good to buy?

Makes and models with a history of unreliability are best to stay away from. According to a study conducted by WhatCar, the most unreliable used cars include the Renault Clio (known for having electrical faults and gearbox problems), the Land Rover Discovery (common faults are related to air suspension and software issues), and the Vauxhall Insignia (the main fault being engine electrics).

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. The best way to mitigate the risk of buying a faulty car is to do a vehicle check. This will give you comprehensive clarity over the history of the car you are looking at buying, including whether it has been in an accident or has been previously written-off. 

How do you inspect a used car?

Work your way around the car starting with the exterior, including the undercarriage, to see if there are any visible faults. Make sure the vehicle is parked on level ground so you will notice if there is any sagging or misalignment. It's also a good idea to engage the parking brake when you do this. From this position, you can also check the exhaust system. If you find extensive rusting, you’ll know that there are cracks in the exhaust pipe that will need to be repaired.

You should also check under the hood to ensure there are no signs of engine damage. Make sure the fluid tanks actually contain fluids and if they don’t, ask the seller why - it might mean there is a leak.

The interior also needs to be inspected. Sit in the car and check that the seats adjust correctly and that there are no tears in the upholstery. Test the aircon and heating, and check the odometer for the mileage. Make sure the mileage makes sense for the age and model of the car you are buying if it seems too low then it might have been manually reduced. If unsure or for peace of mind use My Car Check to check the mileage history of the vehicle especially if it shows heavy wear on seats or the steering wheel.

The best way to truly inspect a car is to give it a test drive, where you will be able to test the car’s performance at different speeds, as well as the steering and braking.

Is a pre-purchase inspection worth it?

For many people, the prospect of purchasing a car can be daunting. If you are not particularly educated on cars and how they work, it can be tough to work out what faults to look for. If you are somewhat of an autophobe, it might be a good idea to get a pre-purchase inspection.

Although it is up to you whether you want to spend money on such an inspection, for a lot of people there is no price to be put on peace of mind. Buying a car is a huge expense, and a pre-purchase check can help you make the right choice, therefore saving money further down the line.

How do you check a car before buying?

There are a couple of different types of vehicle check you can buy, each one offering a different level of information. At My Car Check, we offer a range of vehicle checks ranging from our free free check to a comprehensive check that delivers a huge range of information about the history of your vehicle, from repairs to who owned it.

You will be able to find out whether the car you want has been stolen, written off, has outstanding loan payments, and much more. All our data comes from trusted sources like the DVLA, police, DVSA, MIAFTR, and finance companies. With a check like this, you can get on the road with utmost peace of mind.

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data analysis from 19th Feb '24 to 19th May '24