Your Car Buying Guide


Purchasing a new or replacement car is without a doubt an exciting time, with so many different makes and models and an abundance of optional extras and colours, it’s a tough decision to find the car that meets you own individual needs.Buying your first car

Purchasing a new car will probably be your second biggest purchase in your lifetime, coming only second to purchasing your own home.  This means that you need to take the time to explore and see what cars and deals are out there. 

Whether it’s a new or second hand vehicle, there has never been a better time to make the decision and look for a new vehicle, at present it really is a buyers market and as such car dealers are passing on some great deals and savings to customers.  It is advisable to have a good idea as to the type of vehicle you want before simply turning up at a garage, salesmen can be very persuasive and you may feel inclined to purchase one vehicle over the one you really want.  With purchasing from a garage you will have the benefit of a warranty should the car develop any faults, however if you buy private it really is a case of ‘buyer beware’ as there is normally no warranty and as such no returns. 

Typically you will pay extra when you purchase a vehicle from a main dealer, this is because you will get piece of mind that if the car develops a fault you have an excellent back up.  Newer cars will develop very little in terms of faults if they are looked after, you can therefore make savings by purchasing a vehicle privately, just ensure you follow our buying guide to make sure the car you purchase gives you hassle free motoring.  


V5 Logbook 

Only ever buy a vehicle where the owner has the full logbook, this is not proof of ownership in itself but is in the majority of cases.  Also without this it could be that the car has been stolen.  You will also need the V5 to register the vehicle in your name.


Accident / Stolen 

When buying a second hand vehicle there a number of things to look out for to ensure the car you buy will give you many years of happy motoring.  For every seven genuine cars there is one which has a hidden past, therefore you need to look out for tell tale signs that the vehicle you are buying is 100% genuine.   

It is important to ensure the car has not been stolen, nor has it been in a serious accident, many cars which are written off by the insurance company can legally be fixed and brought back on the road and sold.  A simple HPI check which can be completed online should be carried out this will tell you if the car has been stolen, been in an accident, has outstanding finance or had a change of colour etc. 

It is important not to simply check the registration place but also make sure the HPI engine and chassis numbers match those on the car.  In addition to the HPI the following should be looked at:



The mileage on your vehicle gives you details of how many miles the car has done since it was manufactured, the higher the mileage the less the car is worth, hence why people alter the mileage readings so cars appear to have done less miles than they have actually done.  It is not illegal to alter the mileage reading on a vehicle, however it is illegal to sell a car which has had the reading changed without letting the purchaser know. 

You should make sure that the mileage is in line with the cars condition, for example if it is showing as having completed 10,000 miles, however there is considerable wear on the peddles and the seats are looking warn, then the car may have done more miles than stated.  You must also check the cars history to make sure the MOT certificate and service history is in line with the mileage.


Service History 

For a car to be reliable requires ongoing routine maintenance, this is carried out through completing a vehicle service.  The service check over the vehicle and changes the oil, filters and checks that the vehicle is in good working order.  At the end of the service a service book is stamped and dated, this should be checked when viewing the car.  Many cars boast of having a full Main Dealer Service History, this means the main dealer garage has completed every service and in theory this is better than a smaller garage carrying out the work due to their expertise. 

If the vehicle does not have a service history, bear this in mind and if possible get someone to check over the vehicle more thoroughly.



Once a vehicle is three years old it must hold a valid MOT.  If a car is being sold without an MOT it raises the question as to why the owner has not spent the £40 fee to keep the vehicle on he road.  The advice would be to check over the vehicle more thoroughly before looking to purchase it as there may be mechanical faults which could prove costly.


Bodywork and Exterior 

When viewing the vehicle, the owner should have gone out of their way to ensure the vehicle is presentable and looking its best.  Checking over the bodywork for any signs of rust or different shades of paintwork is essential as this will show if the vehicle has been looked after or had any nocks or bumps.   

If a vehicle does need some attention to the bodywork, ask yourself why the owner has not completed the work.  Quite often the line you get is ‘I haven’t had time’ or ‘it will only cost a few pound to fix’ if this was the case why hasn’t the owner spent that few pounds on fixing it. 

Check the tyres; they should have a good level of tread which is being warned at an equal pace over the full width of the tyre.



As part of the HPI you must look for the engine number, however additionally take a look over the engine, you don’t need to be an expert, just look out for oil or water on the engine, see the engine running and let it run for a good few minutes, after the test drive look at the engine again to see if any further oil or water has appeared.



When getting into the vehicle make sure the seats is not overly warn, ensure they adjust into your driving position.  Check over the electrics, especially electric windows, indicators and lights.  Make sure there are no warning lights on the dashboard, also if the car has a sunroof take a look for any signs of water on the interior.  Also check for any burns or rips as even if you don’t think anything of it, as this could effect future re-sale value.


Trade Secrets 

We also have a few little trade secrets which you should try: 

  • Carry a small magnet with you, if you think a particular area has been repaired see if the magnet sticks to it, as if it doesn’t it will mean the car has been repaired using a type of car bodywork filler. 

  • Look at the owner’s driveway to see if there are any oil patches. 

  • Once the car has been running reverse the car back and look at the floor to see if there are any traces of oil.

  • Ask for a bucket of water to be tipped over the top of the car to check if the sunroof is sealed correctly. 

  • If you view the car on an evening, which isn’t ideal, park the car under a street light, this can show up different shades of paintwork which would suggest the car has been repaired. 

  • When you arrive to view the vehicle ensure you have adequate insurance to enable you to test drive the vehicle.

  • When on the test drive make sure there are no bangs or excessive smoke from the exhaust.  Make sure the brakes are responsive and that the gears are easily selected.  

These checks need not take a considerable amount of time to complete, typically they will only take 15 minutes to check, but could save you thousands of pounds in the future. 

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