Car Buying Guide

Investing in a new car is likely to be your second most expensive purchase after your house. Therefore it is only natural you should take the time to ensure you are making the right investment. Buying a new car should be an exciting experience! However, with so many finance deals and special offers now available, this can make buying a new car a minefield.

Use our checklist to make sure you are fully prepared.

Car History

You should pay close attention to the cars service history (included in the servicing booklet) and previous number of owners. If the car has had lots of owners over a short period, this could be a red flag. Similarly a history of major repair jobs should result in extra caution.

One of the most important documents to check is the VC5 document. Ensure everything matches up with the vehicle, including the address of the registered keeper if you are buying privately. Here you can also check also check the previous owners of the vehicle. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) will be present on the form and this should match with the code on the lower section of the car windscreen.

Tyres / Alloy wheels

The tread on a used cars tyre has to be a certain reading for the car to be legally sold to you. The legal minimum is 1.66mm, however if they are close to 3mm factor in the cost of having to change them soon. Moreover, it is very important to check if the tyres have perished. If you notice the tyres are nearing the end of their life, don’t be afraid to request a discount or a new set of tyres. Remember you are the one in control and the salesman will be keen for a sale.

It is also important to look for signs of curbing or nicks on the alloy wheels. In bright light and with careful inspection you should also be able to notice if these have been painted over. Often a powder coating is used when wheels are refurbed, so look for this as a tell-tale sign of previous damage.

Bodywork / Glass

Carefully inspect the vehicles paintwork; looking out for small nicks, scratches, or ripples in the body work. Often light damage will be barely visible in poor lighting so you should assess the car in bright conditions. If you do spot defects, you will again be within your rights to expect a discount. On the other hand, you would expect a 10-year-old car to perhaps have a couple of blemishes. Therefore it is important to remain realistic when attempting to negotiate a discount on an older car.

On inspection of the windscreen, bear in mind that any minor chips could quickly turn into big cracks. If they are in the drivers eye line this could also result in an MOT failure.

Under the bonnet

Inspect under the bonnet! Remember to check all fluid levels, including:

  • Engine oil
  • Transmission fluid
  • Coolant
  • Windscreen wiper fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Power steering fluid

Be sure to turn let the engine cool down before removing fluid caps.

Test Drive

We recommend always taking the car for a test drive. This will give you a true feeling for the car and allow you to find your comfort levels. It is an opportunity to test everything you can. This includes seat-belts, radio, clutch and steering balance. When you get an opportunity, do an emergency stop on an empty road to double-check the brakes.  Even basic things such as testing the windows and seat levels shouldn’t be forgotten. Hopefully there won’t be any issues, but if there are, negotiate or request the problem is fixed before you buy!

Finance Deals

If you are intending to purchase the car directly from a car dealership, it is probable you will be presented with a number of options for purchasing the vehicle. Finance deals often seem attractive and are rising in popularity, particularly PCP. The monthly PCP payments can be low and you might therefore be able to afford a more desirable make or model.

On the other hand, if you can afford to buy the car outright you will avoid interest charges and will have full ownership of the vehicle. Moreover, if your circumstances change getting out of a leasing contract can be difficult.

The best was to finance your new car will be completely dependent on your individual circumstances. Do your calculations, and think carefully about how long you would like to keep the vehicle.

Agreeing a deal

You are likely to face pressure from a pushy salesman trying to get a deal through quickly. Remember that there will always be another car and there will always be another ‘amazing deal’! Take your time to go over our checklist and don’t be pressured into putting down a deposit until you are 100% satisfied with the deal. Always negotiate, if there is an extra you would like then don’t be afraid to ask for it! Rest assured; the salesman will have heard it before.

Finally, if you have a personalised number plate, don’t forget to submit the paper work as soon as possible.

Time to relax and enjoy your new car!

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