Finding a good second hand car can be difficult with the wide selection available, but too often it’s made even harder by sellers attempting to pass off faulty vehicles as ‘good-to-go’. Sadly we’ve heard several stories from our customers who have been patronised or ripped off by dealers or private sellers who assume that even the most experienced drivers won’t know much about modern cars.
We’ve teamed up with second hand car experts Claire Evans (Consumer Editor, What Car?) and Hugo Griffiths (Deputy Consumer Editor, Auto Express and Carbuyer) to compile a list of simple tips to help you find the right second hand vehicle. From researching to assessing the vehicle, follow our guide to feel confident that when it comes to it, you’ll be purchasing the right car for you.
Finding a used car
Research, research, research
Research is a key first step when looking for a second-hand car; it allows you to go to a dealership or seller with knowledge to make an informed decision about how good a deal really is. Start by thinking of your car requirements to narrow down some suitable models (our list of best cars for older drivers could be a good place to start) and use websites such as AutoTrader.co.uk to compare average prices for those models. This will allow you to spot when a dealer is trying to charge you too much money.
Once you’ve decided on a model (and read a few reviews) you can start to search for one for sale in your area. Auto Trader, Gumtree, and even Facebook are all good places to find cars listed for sale. When you’ve found a specific car you’re interested to view, check its MOT history online and consider purchasing an HPI check. These will instantly let you know whether the vehicle has been stolen, written off, or has any outstanding finance against it.
Consider your comfort
“If you want the best access you’ll need a car that provides a combination of large, wide opening doors, a high seat position and low door sills. The type of car that fits this bill best is the people carrier or an MPV. Our [What Car?] MPV of the Year winner for 2017 is the Volkswagen Touran because it has a roomy, practical interior, a high driving position and door sills just 15in from the ground. It also has a comfortable ride, is good to drive and has a versatile interior with second row seats that are easy to slide back and forward and fold flat.” – Claire Evans, What Car?
Whilst viewing a used car
Scrutinise the paperwork
“Car clocking – the practise of turning back the mileage recorded on a car’s dash readout – is on the rise because it’s easy to do on digital odometers and it can make a big difference in the value of a second hand car. So, make sure you check the paperwork for any potential purchase carefully. Look in the car’s service book and ensure that there are no gaps in the service history and that the mileage recorded at each service rises by a similar amount each year. Also check the mileage written on previous MOT certificates.”- Claire Evans, What Car?
Check the tyres
“Tyres are a great indicator of how well a car has been looked after. First, take a 20 pence piece with you to check the tread depth – it should be as deep as the coin’s border. Next, inspect the front tyres as a pair and the rear tyres as a pair: they should be of the same brand and have a similar amount of wear, as front and rear tyres are best replaced in pairs. Check the sidewalls for signs of perishing rubber and while you’re at it, look for cuts or scrapes caused by kerbing. If an owner has scrimped on tyres, chances are the car will have other issues as well.“– Hugo Griffiths, Auto Express
Trust your gut
“Gut instincts are often underrated when buying a car. If something doesn’t seem right, if the vendor gives vague answers or if things simply don’t add up, politely thank them and walk away. If you feel the clutch is heavy, for example, and the seller says this is a quirk of the model rather than a fault, trust your own feelings rather than what they say. It’s a buyer’s market, and you should never feel pressured into a sale. Wait for the right car and the right vendor.“- Hugo Griffiths, Auto Express
After you've purchased a used car
Test out the drive
Reviewing your decision doesn’t have to end once you’ve taken the car home, as your statutory rights state that the car should be fit for purpose and as advertised, so it’s important to find any potential problems as quickly as possible. If you bought from a commercial dealer, you may also have a cooling off period of around 14-30 days where you can change your mind and return the car for a full refund if you decide it’s not right for you. Unfortunately if you choose to purchase from a private seller this is much riskier, and you will only have the right to return it in the event that you can prove that the car is not fit for purpose.
Find the right car insurance
It’s a legal requirement to hold third party car insurance for your vehicle before you buy it, but given the added risk of the car being second hand, it is advisable to consider fully comprehensive cover, especially if the manufacturer’s warranty has expired. Age UK offers Car Insurance suited to the over 50s, including fully comprehensive cover with no age limit via our insurance partner Ageas. Features such as guaranteed courtesy cars are especially valuable when buying an older model because the risk of your vehicle breaking down is naturally higher.
Do you have any other tips that others should know before buying a second hand car? Let us know on Facebook