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Buying a car

For consumers, the purchase of of a vehicle can be one of the most high value purchases we make during our lifetimes. It also tends to be a purchase subject that leads to many consumer complaints for one reason or another.

It’s important to make sure that what you are buying is not only worth what you are paying for it but it’s also safe for you and your family to drive around in.

Find a reputable dealer

The first thing you should do when you want to buy a used car is to look for a reputable car dealer.

Some car dealers will advertise as being part of a trade organisation who may offer help if something goes wrong (for example, the Retail Motor Industry Federation or the Scottish Motor Trade Association). Alternatively, some traders may offer to have their cars inspected by an independent engineer or motoring organisation before sale to provide extra reassurance.

If you decide to by from a private seller or, at an auction, you’ll generally have less rights if something goes wrong.

For more information on private sales click here, or for more information on auctions click here.

Test drive

Once you’ve seen a car that your interested in you should arrange to test drive it, although you should check whether your insurance will cover you for this, if not then you may be covered under the trader’s insurance.

You should also inspect the car for any damage, its usually best to do this during the day when its dry as any damage will be easier to see.

The AA have a handy checklist of things to look out for when buying a used car which you can find here

The Motor Ombudsman can provide with details of where to go if you wish to have a car independently inspected, there is however a charge for this service.

Check the cars history

Before agreeing to buy a car, you should check the cars history.

Look out for a record of regular MOT’s and question any gaps if a document cannot be produced or if you have concerns about advisories and mileage discrepancies.  MOT history can be checked here and its free of charge. 

There are other checks that you can also do, including:

  • If the car has been reported stolen
  • Whether there is unpaid finance attached to the car
  • Whether the car has been in a serious accident, written off and then repaired
  • Whether the mileage on the car is correct

These checks can be carried out via the following websites:

Please note that there might be a small charge to use these services.

Check the paperwork

When you buy a used car there are certain documents that must be provided to you, these include the log book (you should never buy a car that doesn’t have this) and any current MOT certificate. You must be given the original documents and not photocopies.

It’s also important to know that car tax can no longer be transferred to another person. So as a new owner, you will have to pay for your own car tax straight away and the seller will then be refunded for any leftover tax when the car is sold.

Payment methods

Its also important to choose the right method of payment for you and your finances but also to ensure that you are fully protected in case something goes wrong.

You can find information on different payment methods here.

If you’d like information on what your rights are if something goes wrong, click here.

Last updated: 18 July 2019

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