There are many decisions to make when buying a car, and it’s not just the make and model. You must consider whether to buy new, approved used or used, and if you’re buying a car from a noteworthy brand like a used Mercedes, you want to be sure you’re getting what you pay for.
At the end of the second fiscal quarter in 2022, the UK used car market saw over 1.7 million cars change ownership between drivers. This begs the question, are car buyers taking an astute approach to buying their car?
In this article, we’ll build the ultimate checklist for buying a car. This will look at everything from budgeting to knowing what to examine to ensure you’re getting what you’re paying for in terms of quality.
New, used, and approved used – what to go for?
We’ll go into this guide assuming you know what type of car you want based on the needs of yourself and your household. The next question to tackle is whether you get your car brand new or if you should buy a used one.
There are appealing advantages to both, with the main one for buying a brand-new being that you’re getting a completely fresh car that has not experienced any issues and will be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. It will also likely have more up-to-date in-car technology or come with tech that is a modern standard for the type you’re buying.
If you think used cars are the way to go, the cost is one of the main attractions. You don’t have to worry about the depreciation in the vehicle’s value, and used cars are sold considerably cheaper than their new counterparts due to their age or distance travelled. These can be bought either from dealerships specialising in selling used vehicles from a specific brand or private sellers.
Approved used cars are used cars that are in exemplary condition, such that dealerships place the car under their approved used car scheme. They tend to go through multi-point checks to confirm that the mechanical, safety, and finance aspects of the car are all in expected condition, meaning that as the buyer you have nothing to worry about.
The essentials to check on used cars
With new cars in dealerships, you don’t have to worry about the bumps and scrapes that come from years of travel. So, what needs to be examined when buying a used car?
The first thing to check is the vehicle’s tyres. The minimum tread depth the tyres must have to be road legal is 1.6mm, but if they’re below 3mm, they’ll have to be replaced soon. While looking at the tyres, the wheels are something to consider, as each car should come with a spare wheel in good condition. Make sure there’s also a lifting jack and adapter to install it.
There’s also a chance that used cars may have some scrapes or dents in their bodywork, and all the panels might not match each other. If the car has been in many accidents and there are different panel colours in the body or noticeable gaps, it could indicate poor quality repairs. You should similarly check the windscreen and windows for any chips, as these can be expensive to replace should they be further damaged or shattered.
The internals of the car are also important to check over, from the fluid levels, oil cap and signs of leakage, to the electrics like the windows, air con, and radio.
Give it a test drive…
You never truly know if a car is for you until you’re behind the wheel, and with used cars, you’ll understand how it runs far more if you’ve given it a quick test drive. Pay attention to the things you may take for granted in other cars you’ve driven, from the clutch to the feeling of the wheel when turning. The gearbox and peddles being responsive are also important to make sure they’re in prime driving condition.
Keep your ears open as to what sound the car is making while driving. Is the engine sputtering or struggling on stretches of road or hill? Suspension conditions can also result in clunking sounds, so don’t just pay attention to how the car feels going over bumps and potholes but listen as well.
MOT and Used Car History checks
One thing that can help put your mind at ease when buying a used car is checking previous MOT records for issues that examiners discovered. By plugging in the licence plate registration online, you can see the full MOT history, including issues that were required to be fixed prior to the car being road legal. It is also worth ensuring the car has an in-date MOT, so you won’t have to spend more to book it in.
There are also tools to check a used car’s history to see if there are any issues the seller may not have disclosed. The RAC offer a data check service for any outstanding histories you may not know about. This way, you know exactly what kind of vehicle you’re buying and what possible dangers could accompany it.
Used cars will have their history, being as minor as bumps and scrapes to full crashes resulting in being written off. But they’re a budget-friendlier option to buying new, and finding things that the seller hasn’t disclosed can help to drive the final price down in negotiations.