How to Pick a Second Hand Car


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For many newly-qualified drivers, the dream of a brand new shiny car is simply out of reach – after all, learning to drive is expensive, and you might be short a few pennies for a gleaming Ferrari or Porsche! However, that doesn’t mean that you’re relegated to driving a moving heap of junk. Buying a second hand car is a sensible investment involving very little compromise on quality – and remember, most cars bought brand new depreciate sharply in the first year, as much as 40%, so it’s a smart long term move. That doesn’t mean that it’s an easy field to navigate. Buying a second hand car carries risks that are simply not involved in buying brand new. However, there are some steps that you can take towards making the best choice, and protecting yourself and your hard earned money.

Think Costs

First, think carefully about what you can afford. It’s so easy to be hypnotised by something flashy, but nothing comes for free. Be careful not to overextend yourself, and remember costs like fuel, car tax and insurance are always going to have to be taken care of – it’s worth checking up on these things before you commit to anything.

Think practically as well. Is a two-seater really going to suit you if you plan on taking weekends with friends? Will it be comfortable for long journeys, if that’s on the cards? What about the cost of insurance, which can vary from car to car? Make sure you think carefully about what the car will be used for on a regular basis – the last thing you want is to buy something and then realise it’s not suitable for your everyday needs.

Information Is Power

Once you have some guidelines in place, do your research. Read up on reviews, talk to family and friends, and even visit some new car dealerships to browse. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to make an informed decision.

Your first contact with a private seller or used car dealer can be extremely telling. Ask the right questions, particularly about the car’s history and what it’s been used for in the past. Be wary of anything that seems too good to be true – it probably is.

Inspection Tips

When you inspect the car in person, it’s wise to bring an informed friend or relative. Cars are complex, and a trained eye will pick up on things that seem inconsequential to the casual viewer. However, you can also stay involved by looking for obvious things like rust, dodgy paint touch-ups (which may hide underlying damage) or parts that don’t fit together correctly. Avoid anything that looks like a ‘home job’.

A big threat in buying a second hand car is that it has been clocked – where the odometer is wound back to make it seem like the car has done fewer miles, which can vastly increase its value. Check all the paperwork, like service history and MOT certificates, for anything that doesn’t add up. Get a car history check as well – you don’t want to buy stolen or damaged goods.

Knowledge is power when buying second hand – find out as much as possible, ask for help and don’t be afraid to walk away if it’s not right!