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How to successfully buy a pre-owned car

George Brown 11th Apr 2019 One Comment

Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you are thinking about buying a second-hand car, you may well be able to find a brilliant deal and vehicle which will last for years.

The market for used cars in the UK is astronomical, allowing people to get the car of their dreams for a fraction of the price when compared to buying a new car.

There are a huge number of benefits to buying second hand and if you are lucky, you could even find a car worth a goldmine (which you can find out how to do by clicking here!).

However, there are some risks when buying second hand, especially if you choose to avoid trusted household names and buy from somebody you don’t know.

Unfortunately, there is also a huge black market for buying and selling stolen cars and as many of the people operating within it are professional criminals, it can be easy to be stung.

That is why we have created this guide, alongside our partner Gumtree, to help you avoid making a costly mistake when buying a used car.


How to spot a stolen car

If you do decide to buy a second-hand car from somebody advertising a car on the street or on an internet platform, you need to be aware of what to look out for before exchanging any money.

There is a large market for selling stolen cars and criminals use a variety of techniques to get away with ripping people off.

For example, some cars will be brought to an illegal ‘chop shop’ where parts and panels will be stripped off to be fitted to another car which will then be sold to an unsuspecting buyer.

When buying online be vigilant of the signs of fraud. Online marketplaces such as Gumtree take a range of precautions to tackle fraudulent activity on the platform.

Gumtree always recommends users report any issues they encounter directly and swiftly – ideally using the prominent ‘report ad’ button – so the customer services team can investigate and take action, such as blocking the offender from the site.

Gumtree also lists key safety advice on buying and selling cars in a number of areas, including its Help Centre and on its dedicated motors advice portal, The Inside Track.

One of the ways to ensure you don’t get caught in this kind of trap is to make sure the V5C document is provided and the VIN plate numbers match the V5C ones.

You can find the VIN numbers in two places, at the bottom of the windshield on the driver’s side and in the door jam on the same side.


Consider maintenance costs

Car maintenance

Even when buying a brand new car, it is rare for motorists to consider the cost of upkeep and maintenance in the purchase decision, however, it is important to factor repair costs as they may be significantly higher from one make and model to the next.

When it comes to buying a used car, some people may try to hide the cost of upkeep for a car, while pricing the vehicle at a low point in order to get if off their hands.

The logic can be applied to anything in life, but if the cost of the car is extremely low, it is likely that the costs to keep it running are high.

To avoid getting stuck with a repair bill in the hundreds, make sure to check when the car had its MOT and if it hasn’t had one, ask the current owner to pay for it.

If they refuse or the car hasn’t had an MOT, it would be a good idea to move on.


Take more than one test drive

Taking a car for a test drive is critical in order to ensure you like how it feels, but also because it will give you the opportunity to make sure there is nothing wrong with the vehicle.

When you get onto the road in a car you may buy, make sure to look, listen and feel for the following;

  • The responsiveness and speed of braking
  • Strange noises or smells while driving
  • Pulling from one side to another
  • Blue, black or white smoke from the exhaust
  • Dripping liquid from the exhaust

If you do notice any of these things, it is likely that there is a problem, even though the seller might not be aware.

Make sure to mention what you noticed and ask for a pre-purchase car inspection as a seller may be trying to hide something from you.


Do your research

The value of the car you are planning to buy will depend on a number of factors, so you want to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth.

Research is important to ensure that you actually find the right make and model that is suited to your driving needs.

Furthermore, knowing the average price for the kind of car you want will help you avoid a bad deal.

For example, if you are offered a car for £10,000 which has a full service history, a recently completed MOT and isn’t stolen, you may think you have a brilliant deal.

However, if there are similar cars out there which are priced at £5,000, you will be getting ripped off.

There are thousands of options out there – for example, Gumtree, the UK’s local motors marketplace, has over 160,000 live ads – so don’t be afraid to look at others even if you think you have found a good deal.

Remember, finding the right car for you can be a challenge, so take the time to read reviews and speak to experts who know the second-hand market.

If you want to make sure you’re paying the right price, check it using the calculator below.


Staying safe and staying smart

One of the most important things to remember when buying a second-hand car is the safety of you and your passengers.

It is something which should never be compromised, however, if you decide to choose a dodgy car deal for the sake of saving money, you will be taking a huge risk.

When purchasing a used car, make sure to take precautions to ensure your experience is both safe and successful.

Gumtree’s tops tips for sellers include:

  • Meet in person – it’s the only way to make sure the seller is for real before you receive your goods
  • Take a friend – always take a friend or family member along with you when meeting in person after connecting online, and be sure to meet in a public location
  • Exchange payment safely – there are many options to transfer money, both online and in person, however it’s important to consider the situation to decide what payment method is best for you

Make sure to keep all of the advice we have provided in mind and let us know if you have any questions by getting in touch through social media.


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5 years ago

Useful advice for car buying.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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