Four things you must do when buying a used car

Sometimes we can’t afford the luxury of a brand-new car, meaning it’s time to make do with a used model. However, buying used doesn’t mean you have to compromise on safety and quality of style. Used car sales is a massive, growing industry, with vehicles available at all price ranges. If you’re looking at used cars online or at your local dealer, then here are some important tips to keep in mind.

  1. Do your research

Walking into a dealership with no idea of what you’re after can make you a target for a salesman wanting to offload unwanted or overpriced stock. Before you venture into any car yard, do your research at home. This is where buying a car online can come in handy, as you can compare prices and specifications from the comfort of your living room. Look for things online like the price of a particular model at other dealers, fuel economy, what safety features are available, and if the car has ever been recalled – you can usually find this out by googling your car’s make and model with ‘recall’ in the search bar.

  1. Ask to see the full specifications

If you’re interested in a particular car, then ask to see its full documentation – things like past warrant of fitness records, receipts of previous repairs and services, and the manual. Ask to see a photo of the odometer too if it’s not available online. This means you can get a full picture of the car’s history, whether it’s been regularly serviced, and how recently parts that are liable to break down (such as the timing belt) have been replaced. If you’re looking at a car that’s over five years old and hasn’t had regular servicing, then steer well clear.

  1. Inspect the vehicle

Even if you know nothing about cars, there are still a few things you can check yourself to assess the quality of the car. Check for any dings or scratches, or spots where the paint has recently been chipped away – this means it’s liable to rust in the future, with nothing to protect the metal. Check the fluids in the car, as this is a good indication of its condition – the brake fluid should be clear to slightly yellowish. If it’s a darker brown, like blacker tea or coffee, then it means the brake system has bled out and need refreshing, which can be expensive. Make sure the coolant is clear, and the transmission fluid is red or purplish, not oily and black.

  1. Ask for a test drive

If you really want to know what kind of condition a vehicle is in, then it’s best to drive it yourself. Try to get up to speed on an open road or highway so you can hear how well the engine works and don’t be afraid to put on the brakes. They should be smooth and responsive without being stiff or spongy. If the dealer or seller isn’t keen to let you take a drive, then don’t risk it – any car, even used, is a considerable investment, and you need to make sure you’ve found the perfect match.