We understand that the majority of the general public aren't experts in inspecting and buying their next potential vehicle. Most of us will only change cars every 3 or 4 years, so we have created a buying guide to make sure you buy the car you want and doesn't have a hidden past.
Researching Your Next Vehicle
It always pays to do a bit of homework on your next vehicle purchase, rather than rushing into it. Carrying out some research on your next car is a smart move to help you make the right decision, a few things to consider and search are:
How much is the insurance for it?
How much is the tax?
Do a search online to find out its MPG and ratings from people who already own this type of car.
Also search online to see if it has ever had a manufactures recalls
Viewing The Car
When you arrange to view the car, make sure you view it in daylight (and preferably in good weather) as it will be much easier to spot any damage the vehicle may have.
Start inside in the car in the driver’s seat, start the car and make sure all the lights on the dash turn out after a few seconds. Normally the only lights that should still be on are the handbrake light and traction control light (If applicable to that car). If the airbag or engine management lights stay on, then you maybe looking at a costly repair.
Make sure all the buttons inside work such as the radio, wipers, indicators and lights. Check for cigarette burns on the seats, stains or missing trim.
Now it’s time to look round the outside of the vehicle. Leave the engine running.
You want to start at the driver’s door and go anticlockwise around the car, checking every panel and wheel as you go around. This minimises the chance of a bald tyre, dent, scuff or scratch being over looked. Look for any damage or missing trim as you look around; make sure all the panel gaps are even. Uneven gaps between body panels indicate that the panel has been removed or adjusted and not refitted correctly, normally because the vehicle has been involved in an accident.
Open the doors, bonnet and boot as go around. Make sure they all open correctly and that the insides of the doors/boot are not damaged. Also check in the boot for the spare wheel, toolkit and locking wheel nut (If applicable) make sure the spare wheel has good tread on the tyre.
When you check under the bonnet as you’re going around the car, make sure that there isn’t any leaking oil coming from anywhere, and that coolant, oil, brake and other fluid levels are correct.
The Test Drive
Once you are happy with both the interior and exterior of the car, then it’s time for the test drive. Always make sure you have valid insurance to drive the vehicle first.
You want to drive the car on different roads to see how it performs, down a dual carriageway and a country lane are ideal. This will test the car at speed and around bends; aim to make the test drive 15 to 30 minutes.
You want to make sure the car pulls away smoothly, brakes well and does not pull to the left or right when driving or under braking. You also want to listen for any loud or unusual noises coming from either the engine or suspension. Make sure the gearbox engages all gears smoothly with no crunches.
If you don’t feel confident that you’ll be able to make sure the car is mechanically sound, you can always arrange a mechanic to carry out an inspection in the car for a small fee.
VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)/ Chassis Numbers
A VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or Chassis number is a code made up from letters and numbers that is unique to every car. They will be placed around the car, the most common places you will find them is in the door shut of the driver’s door, in the bottom right of the windscreen (under where the tax disc is displayed), and you will find a number that is physically stamped into the chassis either in the engine compartment or in the boot. If you are unsure of the VIN number locations on a particular vehicle, a quick internet search will tell you where they are marked on that vehicle.
You will need to look at the VIN/ Chassis number that is printed on the sellers V5C registration document (logbook) and HPI check and make sure it matches the numbers on the car; this will make sure the identity of the car is correct.
We recommend you find at least 2 VIN numbers on the car 1 MUST be a stamped VIN number as these are the most difficult to fake.
All UK VIN numbers over the last 10 years are made up of 17 numbers and letters. Look out for VIN’s with Z and 2 and with 5 and S, these are common errors as to why a VIN will not match a legitimate vehicle.
Sit down with the seller and have a look thru all the paperwork that they have for the car to make sure everything is there. The minimum that most cars should have is the V5C registration document (logbook) and MOT certificate, have a look thru the service book or receipts to make sure the car has regular servicing to keep the car running smooth. The service book will state when that particular vehicle should be serviced, have a look at the service stamps in the book and make sure they tie in with the vehicles servicing guidelines. Also look for the manuals for the car, spare keys and ask if the vehicle has the Satnav disc (If applicable).
Have a look at the V5C registration document (logbook) and there a few things to check:
Does the sellers name match what is on the front of the V5C? If not, ask why they are selling it for someone else?
Does the number plate match what’s on the V5C?
Does the V5C have a watermark?
Does the VIN number, vehicle make, model, fuel, doorplan, number of doors, transmission and vehicle colour, match what is on the V5C?
Are there any spelling mistakes on the registration document?
If you’re happy with the car and you want to buy it, we heavily recommend carrying out a few checks before parting with your money. The car may have a hidden past that even the seller doesn’t know about.
We have a vehicle check section, so it’s easy to carry out all the checks you need in one place. You can check the past of the car you want to buy or even check the car your currently own.
On our vehicle checks page you will be able to:
Carry out a HPI check which will tell you the following information about a vehicle:
If the vehicle has ever been in an accident and has been classed as an insurance write off.
If the vehicle has any outstanding finance left to pay against the vehicle.
If the car has been clocked (Where the mileage has been turned back to make it look like a lower mileage example).
If the car has been cloned.
If the V5C (logbook) is a forged copy and not a genuine V5C registration document (logbook) issued from the DVLA.
You will also be able to carry out a VOSA check; this will provide you with the following information:
All of the vehicles MOT history, including details of the garage where that particular MOT was carried out.
When the current MOT runs out
All passes and failures (if applicable) the car has had
All advisories (if applicable)
You can also tax or SORN (statutory off road notification) a vehicle and also make sure a vehicle is on the motor insurance database on our vehicle checks page.
Please click HERE to visit our vehicle checks and road tax page.
If you’re not in a position to take the car then, pay the seller a deposit and arrange a date to collect the car and pay the rest. We recommend that you leave no more than £200 as a deposit.
You will need to fill out the green section on the V5C (logbook) to change the owners over; just fill in the required information such as your name and address. Both you and the seller will sign the bottom of the V5, the seller will then post it back to the DVLA and you will become the new keeper and receive your new V5 in the post.
For more information on changing vehicle ownership over, please visit: http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/vehicles.aspx