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Buying a used car checklist

Helping you to get the best deal when buying a used car
This checklist should be read with the booklet Buying a used car. It is a guide to help you decide whether a car is worth buying.
If you find yourself ticking a lot of Yes boxes in one or more sections, it may be best to walk away. If you donít feel confident about carrying out these checks yourself, get an expertís opinion.
If you find yourself ticking a lot of shaded circles in one or more sections, you should seriously consider whether to go ahead with the sale.

Click here to print this checklist (Printer friendly)

Is the car in reasonable condition?

Before the test drive YES NO
Are sills, wheel arches and door bottoms rusty or the paint bubbling?
Is the paintwork faded, blemished or excessively damaged?
Are there oil leaks or damaged hoses/drive belts under the bonnet?
Are tyres worn or damaged?
Are seat belts showing signs of fraying?
Do door and window seals show signs of leaking?
Are electrics faulty (lights, washers, horn and indicators)?
When you start the engine and before you drive away does the vehicle emit blue or black smoke from exhaust?
(indicates badly-worn engine)
Has it been clocked? Physical checks
Are mileometer numbers out of line?
Is wear and tear heavy, given mileage?
Have pedal rubbers/gear knob/steering wheel been changed?
Paper checks/questions to ask
Does mileage on last MOT certificate contradict mileometer reading?
Does mileage on service documentation contradict mileometer reading?
Does mileage when car was last sold contradict mileometer reading?
(check with previous owners Ė named on V5)
During the test drive
Are brakes defective? (eg, car takes a long time to stop)
Does car pull to one side when you brake?
Do brakes squeal?
Is the brake pedal soft or spongy? Do you have to put the pedal to the floor to brake?
Park the car on an incline with the handbrake on. Does the car roll backwards?
Does the steering wheel vibrate? Is there a lot of free play?
Does car pull to one side?
Is changing gear difficult?
Does gear lever jump gear when you brake or accelerate?
Is the clutch difficult to use when moving through the gears?
Does engine sound different if clutch is pressed when car is idling?
Is there a strong smell of petrol or oil?
After the test drive
Open the bonnet and take a look while the engine is running.
Then switch the engine off.
Does the engine make uncommon noises?
Are there water or oil leaks?
Is there excessive smoke from the exhaust?
When engine has stopped, remove oil cap
Ė do you see white liquid like mayonnaise?
Look under the bonnet and underneath the car, with a torch if necessary. Are there any leaks?
Is it an insurance write off?
Have body panels been repaired?
Is colour/texture of paintwork patchy?
Has welding been carried out on the engine/boot?
Have repairs been carried out on the boot?
(check under the carpet)
Is it stolen? Physical checks
Has the vehicle identification number (VIN) been tampered with?
Are glass areas such as windows, lights or sunroof etched with incorrect VIN? (as a security measure some cars have the VIN etched on their glass)
Have surface areas of glass been scratched off windows, head lights, tail lights, sun roof?
Do stickers conceal altered etching?
Are there signs that the car has been resprayed, for example is there paint on the wheels or seals?
Are there signs of forced entry?
Has the locking petrol cap been forced and replaced?
Do the locks differ?
(thieves often change locks they have damaged)
Paper checks/questions to ask
Is the seller unable to produce the registration document (V5)?
Does the seller give an inadequate reason for not having the V5?
Are there spelling mistakes or alterations to the V5?
Is watermark missing from V5?
Is sellerís name and address different from V5?
(ask seller for proof of identity and address, eg, driving licence, utility bill)
Is number plate different from V5?
Is engine number different from V5?
Is vehicle identification number (VIN) different from V5?
(check VIN plate in engine compartment and under both bonnet and driverís seat)
Is the seller unable to produce an insurance policy and an up-to-date MOT certificate for the car?

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