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Used car checklist: all the advice you need to buy a used car

Buying a used car is a big decision, especially when you’re new to driving. You want to make the right choice. That’s why we’ve put together this used car checklist. Put a big tick next to every item on this list and buy a used car to be proud of.

Can I afford it?

This is vital. You don’t want to spend every last penny and leave yourself with nothing to cover fuel bills, servicing, maintenance and running costs.

Can I insure it?

Depending on the value of the car, where you live, and your driving record, insurance can be almost as costly as the car itself. Get some quotes before you commit to buying. Use price comparison sites, but don’t forget that some companies aren’t on them.

Will it be reliable?

Reliability is an important box to tick in any used car checklist. Search online for owner satisfaction and reliability surveys. Find out all you can about the car you are thinking of buying, including common faults and how much they cost to fix.

Is it safe?

Look at Euro NCAP to find an independent, unbiased safety rating for most popular cars. Remember that Euro NCAP tests have been getting steadily tougher, so a five-star score in 2021 is much harder to come by than it was in 2011. If you are shopping for a relatively new car, look out for autonomous emergency braking, a driver aid which will brake for you in an emergency if you aren’t paying attention.

Has the car been cared for?

You want to have a good look through the service history to make sure the car has been serviced on time.

Is the car in good condition?

Always have a really thorough look over any car you are thinking of buying. Check for dents, dings, and scuffed alloys. Some wear-and-tear is to be expected, but don’t buy a tatty car unless the condition is reflected in the price. Make sure everything works, from the electric windows, to the radio, to the central locking. Look for tyre wear, and any sign of oil leaks.

Does it drive well?

Take a test drive, ideally on a variety of roads so you can get a feel for the car at speed as well as around town. Does it start at the first turn of the key? If you grip the steering wheel loosely, does the car pull to the left or right? Does the car brake strongly and in a straight line? And is there any sign of clutch slip, such as high revs with little acceleration? There are plenty of used cars to choose from so don’t buy one that doesn’t feel right when you get behind the wheel.

Have I checked that the car doesn’t have a murky past?

Another vital item on any used car checklist: what is the car’s history? You can check if the car has a valid MOT online, as well as finding out if any long-term problems were found during the test. There are many companies who will check the car’s past for you, so you can be sure it hasn’t been stolen, written off, and doesn’t have any finance outstanding.

Is the seller the true owner?

If you are buying from a private seller, make sure the name and address of the person you are buying from matches the name and address on the logbook (the V5C). If not, there’s something odd going on – the car could be stolen.

So, can you answer ‘yes’ to all the questions on this used car checklist? Good. Get ready to buy your first used car.

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