Robin Henderson, Audi Aftersales Manager at Lookers, shares the 10 questions you should ask every time you go to buy a used car.
While buying a used car can lead to some huge savings, it does come with a bit of risk. However, if you ask the right questions, you can make sure you're leaving the dealership with a vehicle that's going to serve you well for years to come.
To help guide you through the used car buying process, here are the questions you should never leave the showroom without asking.
1. Has it ever been resprayed?
If you can tell that the car's been repainted or find out it has, this should set alarm bells ringing. Some unscrupulous sellers will use a new paint job to disguise a multitude of sins, and this could be the tip of an iceberg of serious problems that you really won’t want to inherit.
2. Can I take a test drive?
You should never, ever buy a used car without taking a test drive. This is the only way to get a feel for the vehicle, and it will reveal faults that you simply won't be able to spot without getting behind the wheel. Listen out for engine noises, and get a feel for all the gears, the suspension, and the handling.
If you're buying your first car before you've passed your test, make sure to take a friend or family member to drive on your behalf. If the seller isn't willing to let you take a test drive, always walk away from the deal.
3. Can you do anything on the price?
A massive 64% of car buyers who tried to negotiate down the price of a car were successful, according to the Money Advice Service. Never leave a dealership without haggling on the price, and always be prepared to walk away if you can't get the deal you want.
4. Can you include any extras?
If you're buying a used car from a dealer, make sure to ask if they can sweeten the deal with some extras. They might be able to replace the tyres or give it a service before handing over the keys, which can save you hundreds down the line.
5. Can I see the service history?
When you're buying a second-hand car, it's important to know what you're signing up for. Its service history will reveal a detailed report of any work that's been performed on the vehicle over its life. If the seller can't show you the service book, you should proceed with extreme caution.
6. Can I see the MOT certificates?
If the car you're buying is over three years old, the seller should be able to show you its MOT certificates. If they can't, you'd be right to be suspicious.
7. Can I see the car's mileage?
A car's V5C will give an accurate account of its mileage over the years. If the car has clocked up some serious miles, you might want to pass on it, as it's more likely to become the victim of wear and tear.
However, total mileage isn’t everything: cars like to be driven, and problems can develop if they sit unused for long periods. If a car's mileage is low for its age, that means it will have spent a good chunk of its life sitting on a drive, potentially developing some serious problems.
The best second-hand buys have the mileage you would expect for a car their age.
8. Is there a warranty?
If you're buying from a dealer, the purchase will be protected under the Sale of Goods Act. Nevertheless, you might want to take out a warranty on top of this. The dealership is likely to upsell you on a policy they get commission on — this might be a good product, but make sure you read the small print carefully before you take anything out.
9. Can I see proof of identity and ownership?
If you're buying a car from a private owner, make sure the paperwork all checks out. You'll need to compare their driver's licence with the car's V5C document. If anything raises your suspicions, don't be afraid to back out of the deal — better safe than sorry.
10. Can I take this to my mechanic?
If you're buying from a private owner, you won't be protected by the Sale of Goods Act. It's therefore a good idea to be extra cautious and have a mechanic take a look over the car. Think of this like a survey on a house: if it throws up any minor issues, you can use them to negotiate the price down; if it reveals major issues, it's a small price to pay to avoid a headaches and major repair bills down the line.
So, there you have it: the 10 questions you should always ask when you're buying a used car. Stick to these to give yourself the best possible chance of going home with a great car at a fantastic price.