The Simple Guide to Buying a Used Car

By CarMoney November 13, 2019
The Simple Guide to Buying a Used Car

Looking for a Guide to Buying a Used Car? Look no further!

When you decide the time is right to buy a car, there’s a multitude of questions you need to ask yourself. If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably answered the first important question – shall I buy ‘Used’ or ‘New’?

Once you’ve made that first big decision, there’s a lot more considerations to take into account. Do you go to a private dealer and hope for a better deal or stick with a verified dealer and pay that little bit extra? How old is too old and how many miles are too many? Do you go for it and spend over the odds on your dream car or take a risk on a cheaper model?

Luckily, we’ve laid out some top tips to show you exactly how to buy a used car with expert advice and a simple step checklist you can run through when it comes to parting with your hard earned cash! 

This simple guide should help steer you in the right direction and ensure that you get the best value for money on your next used car.

1. Where is the best place to buy a used car?

So you’ve made the decision to buy a used car, it’s time to ask the big question – where should you buy it from? We delve into the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of sellers you might encounter. 


Car dealership

Car dealerships are everywhere when you are looking to buy a second hand car. They are perfect for those who might be a bit nervous about buying their first used car as it is likely that the dealership would have put the car through rigorous testing and sometimes offer a good warranty (6-12 months) all included in the cost. 

While these benefits might add to the cost of a car, you can be reassured that the car you are buying has been thoroughly checked and will be in good working order when you drive it off the lot.  

Driveaway dealer

Buying from a driveaway dealer could save you higher upfront costs, but may end up costing you a lot more in repairs.

buying a used car from a dealer also means that you won’t have access to HP or PCP so if the car is more than you can afford, you will have to take out a personal loan to pay for it. 

Consumer Rights Act

It’s important to note that all traders legally have to comply with the Consumer Rights Act which means that you may be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund if the vehicle is not deemed ‘fit for purpose’ or ‘of satisfactory quality’.

If you want to claim a full refund, you’ll have to be quick as you only have 30 days to claim as after this the amount you will receive varies. 

2. What’s a good age & mileage for a used car?

Year + Low Miles = Good Car?

On average a car should do around 10 – 15,000 miles a year. As a general rule of thumb, be wary of any car that has done over 100,000 miles in 5 years. This could be a sign that it has been used as a rental/lease car and has not been well looked after.

It may go without saying that you want as new a car as possible with as low mileage as possible but which is more important? An old car with low mileage may have been sat in a garage for years and be a great bargain. Just because a car is newer doesn’t mean it’s in better condition. However, it’s important to inspect each car on an individual basis.

3. What type of car do I need?

This is an important question to ask yourself as you will no doubt have a budget to stick to. We’ve put together a list of questions that you need to ask yourself when weighing up what type of car you need, rather than want!

– What are my requirements (essential)? Space for the family? Cheap car to run? Sporty?

– Does this car need to tow anything? Will I likely be towing a trailer? 

– What do I need this car to do? Will I use the car mostly for city driving or long distances?

– How big do I need the boot to be? Will I need more space for the family or is it just me and my work bag?

– Petrol, Diesel or Electric? Which will be a more viable option for me and the environment? 

4. How much should I be willing to pay for a used car? 

Are you going in with a set budget or getting the car on finance. You also need to take into consideration the cost of insurance, the smaller the car the less it costs to insure.

When you’ve found the car you want to test drive and quite possibly buy, make sure you know how much you are willing to spend. Haggling isn’t uncommon when it comes to buying a car but not all dealers will lower the price. Make sure you are prepared to pay the full amount. 

If you are looking at financing a car, give our ‘How does car finance interest work?’ article a read to help you understand the difference between buying upfront and paying a car off over 5 years with interest. 

5. Test drive

This should seem like an obvious thing to do when purchasing a car but many people will choose a car based on looks alone without taking it for a spin. You should be offered a test drive, if not request one as you need to get a feel for the car you’ll more than likely be driving for the next few years. This is also a good chance to hear for any bangs or noises that sound like the car isn’t in the best condition.

6. Is it safe?

The most important thing that you need to check is that the car you are buying is safe to buy. Trust your gut instinct and if something doesn’t feel right and the car looks ready for the scrap heap continue to look elsewhere. 

CarMoney checks every dealer to make sure they are reputable and a safe place to buy your car. 

Overall Condition

Make sure you do a thorough walk around the car, check the tyres for tread and inflation. If they seem low, ask the seller to pump them up as you will be able to see if they go down. The tyres should stay fully inflated otherwise there might be a bigger issue that will need dealing with. Another thing to check is gaps between panels, if something looks odd or out of place, the car might have been in a crash previously. 

Another thing to check is the lights. Make sure you check front lights, brake lights, main beam and fog lights as these are all lights that need to work by legal requirement.  

Under the hood

When you look at the car, lift the bonnet so you can check the engine. Look for oil and water leaks on the engine and surrounding parts. Also take a look under the engine to see if there are any signs of leaking. 

Follow this by checking the oil to see if the level is correct on the dipstick. If the level is low, ask the seller to top it up as this could be an indication of an oil leak. 

Once you’ve done these tests, run the engine for 5-10 minutes. Head around to the back of the car and take a look at the exhaust. If the engine is leaking water or if there is smoke coming out of the exhaust, this could be a sign of a major issue so it’s best to walk away. 

For final reassurance you can get the RAC to check over any car you are looking at purchasing. They offer three variations of inspection but you can drive away knowing that you have bought the right car. 

Need some more help? CarMoney offers a concierge service where we will talk through all your requirements and find cars that are near you, within budget and we make sure they are HPI checked and are from reputable dealers. 

The most important thing to remember when buying a used car is don’t rush and buy the first car you see. Take you time, look around and see what else is out there. Take a look at our Car Finder page to view the wide range of cars that are locally available. 

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