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Pitfalls of Buying a Used Car

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 12 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Buying Used Car Pitfalls Buying Used Car

It goes without saying that buying a used car can present many additional pitfalls than buying new from a dealership. It’s important to be vigilant and aware of the kinds of things you need to look out for and questions you should ask to avoid problems later. That said if you know what you’re doing, buying a used car that’s genuine and has been well looked after and cared for can be very worthwhile and can provide excellent value for money.

The main issues to consider when buying a used car are:

  • Legal ownership
  • True mileage of the vehicle
  • Mechanical condition
  • Safety of the vehicle
To establish the legal ownership of the vehicle, there is further information available on another article in this section entitled, “What Documentation You Should Have When Buying a Car”.

What to Look Out For

‘Clocking’ is the term used to describe the illegal practice of winding back the odometer (which calculates total mileage) on a car in order to increase its value. You should carefully examine the dashboard for screws that have become worn as this may be an indication that the instruments may have been tampered with. From a visual standpoint, it’s become harder to check for clocking these days since the introduction of digital odometers as these can be adjusted electronically. If, however, the odometer shows a low mileage, look at the pedal rubbers to see how worn they are. A shiny and worn steering wheel is also a potential giveaway. Basically, however, most cars usually average around 10,000 miles per year so if the odometer doesn’t tally with the age of the car, you may wish to investigate further. Check the current MOT certificate and ask to see previous ones if possible. There are also some companies online who can provide you with mileage records for a car’s registration number for a small fee up to their most previous MOT service. However, if you’re in doubt, walk away from the sale.

One of the biggest pitfalls of buying a used car is determining whether or not it is a ‘cut and shut’. This is when the remnants of two or more cars which have usually been damaged in an accident and have become an insurance ‘write off’ and have been welded together to form another vehicle, then illegally given one of the original damaged cars own identity. Unless you’re an expert, some of these welded vehicles can appear outstanding to the naked eye. However, checking the registration certificate carefully and/or asking a mechanic to take a look at the vehicle, are ways that you can minimise the risks of buying one.

Test Driving

Any seller should gladly agree to your request for a test drive before you decide whether or not to go ahead and buy the car. But it shouldn’t be just a quick ‘once around the block and back’. You should really be looking to test drive it over about 10 miles or so to let it warm up properly and to be driven on different types of roads in varying conditions and speeds in order that you’re better placed to notice anything untoward.

Make sure you go to see the car in broad daylight, preferably when it’s sunny. That way, it will be far easier to spot visual signs of accidental damage and repairs which you may not have been made aware of. Taking someone with you who knows a lot about cars is always a good idea. They will not only be able to spot things that you may have missed but will also be privy to any agreements you may or may not have made with the seller.

And, as for the seller themselves, make sure they are who they say they are and always meet them at their own home or business premises. That way, you can see whether the address on the registration certificate matches the address where you meet. You should never agree to meet at a neutral location, e.g. a car park and you should be wary if the only telephone number the seller gives you is a mobile number.

And remember, do not be pressured into handing over any money until you are fully satisfied as a result of all the checks you have made.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
BMW.3 - Your Question:
I recently purchased a car from a dealership and after driving it home on the motorway a tyre warning light came on. When we got it checked with the garage the mechanic informed us of a large crack on the inside of the alloy and the inside of the tyre was bold. I rang the garage and they weren’t prepared to replace the alloy. I was just seeking advice on what I can do.

Our Response:
We're not sure, is this something that a dealer could have checked easily? What was the description of the vehicle when you bought it etc? We really need more information.
SaferMotoring - 13-Oct-17 @ 3:01 PM
I recently purchased a car from a dealership and after driving it home on the motorway a tyre warning light came on. When we got it checked with the garage the mechanic informed us of a large crack on the inside of the alloy and the inside of the tyre was bold. I rang the garage and they weren’t prepared to replace the alloy. I was just seeking advice on what I can do.
BMW.3 - 12-Oct-17 @ 7:39 PM
How do you prove that the registered keeper is also the legal owner of the car?
Ralph - 10-May-12 @ 10:11 AM
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