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What to look for when buying a used car

Thu 13 Sep 2018

Buying a second-hand car need not be a frightening experience. With a bit of foresight and planning, there are great deals to be had when buying pre-owned. As well as your own research, below are some tips that you may want to consider.


  1. Insurance groups

Do your research before looking, as insurance groups can vary dramatically. Many of the popular  motoring publications, available in print and online will list the car insurance groups, so you get an idea of the likely grouping, as well as other information on the car.

If you have in mind the make and model of car you wish to buy, it’s a good idea to get insurance quotes beforehand. Even if you don’t have the car registration details, you can still obtain a quote by providing the make, model and age details - you can usually save the quotes to come back to later.


  1. When to look

Plan your trip to car dealerships, as rainy days could make for a bad experience, and poor light will make nicks and scratches difficult to spot.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the time of month/year, could also have an influence on the willingness of the sales person to negotiate on price.  Many dealerships may have a larger number of pre-owned cars to sell just after the twice yearly change of registration plate in March and September. And if you want the salesperson’s undivided attention, weekdays could be quieter than a busy Saturday afternoon.


  1. Car History

It’s often the case, especially when a car has had a few previous owners, that the full-service history may not be available. There are various companies who can for a fee, check the history of your car, determine if it’s been in any accidents, registered stolen or have finance outstanding. ,, amongst others, offer some or all of these services for a fee.

This is well worth doing for peace of mind, particularly if buying through a private vendor.


  1. MOT

Most garages will have given their cars a service and the MOT should be up to date.

Bear in mind that some private sellers will market their car just before the MOT is due, especially if they have concerns on the health of the car.

If you suspect there may be problems with the running of the car ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid of insisting on a test drive.

This is another opportunity where the car’s service history is worth inspecting, you may spot recurring problems.


  1. V5C Document

This is the vehicle registration certificate, sometimes referred to as the “log book” and will confirm who the rightful owner of the car is.

It will also bear the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) which you will normally find stamped to chassis of the vehicle or found at the base of the vehicle windscreen, next to the bonnet.

You will need to complete a section of this form once the car is purchased, to transfer the ownership.


  1. Mileage

No, you can’t run a car backwards to reduce the mileage, but it is possible to tamper with the clock, so if you suspect that the mileage is too good for the age of the car, have a look back through the service history and MOT certificates.

Some cars will have low mileage, but it still pays to be prudent.


  1. Tyres

Uneven wear on the tyres can be a sign of wheel misalignment, known as ‘tracking’.

You also need to check the tread. A simple way to test this is by using a 20 pence coin. Just insert the coin into the main tread grooves of your tyres. If the coin’s outer band is no longer visible then your tread is above the legal limit.


  1. Warranty

If a warranty is supplied with the car, be sure to check the limitations. Used car warranties vary, especially with regards to claim cover and limits.

If you have to pay for a warranty, do check the warranty provider is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and that it offers a 14 day cooling-off period.


  1. Price

Don’t be afraid to haggle with the seller, whether private or at a dealership. Have a look at websites such as to have an idea of price guide comparisons before you shop.

And take advantage of asking for ‘extras’ such as car mats, before you seal the deal.


  1. After- sales problems

If you buy a new or used car from a dealer and experience problems with it, you have some statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Buying privately is one of the riskiest ways of buying a car,as if something goes wrong with it you don’t have as much legal protection as you would if you’d bought the car from a dealer.

It is always worth checking online resources such as to find out what your rights and options are in these types of circumstances.


Now what about Car Insurance?

If you have car insurance with Police Mutual, you can switch cover to your new vehicle over the phone without incurring any administration fees. If you don’t have car insurance with us, why not get a quote from us?

Unlike many insurers, there are no hidden extras when you insure with Police Mutual and if you switch to us, Police Mutual will pay the cancellation fee that might be charged by your current provider, up to the value of £125.

For more information about our car insurance and how you could benefit, click here or call 0800 032 2610

Police Mutual car insurance is provided by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc.

PMGI Limited, trading as Police Mutual, is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England & Wales No. 1073408. Registered office: Alexandra House, Queen Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS13 6QS.

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Type of article: Articles
Category: Wellbeing

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