Tips when buying a used car

Uploaded by TheCooperativeGroup on 09.12.2011

Buying a used car is something that almost all of us are going to do at some point and
it can be scary, it's a big purchase so you've got to kind of take the emotion out of the
buying process and look at the information that's available to you. There's loads of
information available from all sorts of places, especially online and you should look at that.
But for what it's worth, here's what I look for when I'm buying a used car.
There are all sorts of things you can check without even getting inside and starting the
engine. Does the mileage ring true with the exterior condition of the car? Now if this
car had been flogged up and down the motorway for tens of thousands of miles, there would
be tell-tale signs not least scratches and nicks in the paintwork Ð especially here
on the leading edge of the bonnet. Also check the windscreen for little cracks and scratches.
Now the conditions of the wheels and the tyres is usually a dead giveaway. This one has got
a bit of a curving mark on it there but that's not too serious. Don't kick tyres! Kicking
tyres tells you nothing; modern tyres the construction is incredibly rigid but when
you do go to buy a used car, you will have to take with you a 20 pence piece because
if you put it in the tread then it will give you some indication of whether the tyres are
legal Ð 3 mm is the legal requirement. There should be a bit more on a car of this age
with the kind of mileage that this one is supposed to have.
When I say supposed to have, there is a startling statistic. One in three used cars has been
clocked; the mileage has been wound back to increase its resale value so you need to be
Look at the wing mirrors Ð they are a dead giveaway! What kind of condition are they
in? Do they look like they've spent many, many, many thousands of miles on a motorway?
Are they covered in scratches? Are they faded? Have they been clattered? Is the glass cracked?
Mirrors are always a good indication.
Here's another tick for you Ð most cars are central locking these days so you can tell
if there are a lot of scratches around where the keyhole is then there is a car that's
got problems perhaps with it's electrics or it's done many, many more miles than it's
supposed to have had and that's why there has been a key put into that lock so many
Check the fuel filler cap as well Ð has it been forced? Has it been replaced? Have the
keys been lost at some point? Do the keys all tally together? These are all the sorts
of things that you can ask. Ask questions! Ask the
previous keeper why the mileage is so low or why the mileage is so high and these are
all things that you can do before you even get into that car or think about starting
the engine.
Right, we've got the keys - let's have a look in the boot. The first thing, the parcel shelf;
these things are very easily detachable. We all do it. You put it aside, you drive off
Ð expensive to replace!
Check the carpet Ð is it dry? If it's not the boot seal might have failed. That could
be an expensive job.
Right, let's check the spare tyre. There isn't one! Instead we've got one of those emergency
get-you-home kits. Check the jack, make sure it works; make sure the wheel brace is actually
the right wheel brace. The number of cars I've got in where somebody has just stuck
a wheel brace in the back of the car so make sure it fits. If you're lucky enough to have
alloy wheels like this car does, check that the lock Ð the key for the lock on the alloy
wheels is there. If it isn't with the car, that can be hundreds of pounds to replace.
Right, let's see what's going on under the bonnet. For goodness sake, when you put the
bonnet up like this don't start randomly taking the tops off to check levels. If this car
had just been run and you undid this one, you'd get a scalded hand as a warning. Helpfully
I'm here but do dip the oil though because it tells you so many things about the car.
Let's try this one, there we are! So let's stick it in there and see what it tells me.
Yeah! All is good. If it's below the minimum mark then walk away from the car. The car
has been run with the oil level below the minimum; that's low oil pressure, the moving
parts of the engine aren't getting the lubrication that they need Ð walk away from it.
However, if when you dip it and you look at the indicator it's over the maximum mark that
is a classic sign of a car that is using oil and has been rapidly topped up when they know
that you're coming round to see it so if it's under the minimum, walk away; if it's over
the maximum ask why!
Right, what can we tell from sitting here about this car without starting the engine?
Well we want to know don't we if the mileage that's showing is the actual mileage this
car has done. There are some tell-tale giveaways about how much use a car has had. For instance,
when you get into the car you inevitably rub against the door seal and the bolster of the
seat Ð that's this bit Ð so check, compare the two. Look at the bolster on this side
and look at the bolster on the other side. If there's dirt or wear or if the stitching
is coming undone, the car has probably had a lot of use.
Likewise, a leather covered steering wheel is a giveaway as well. Wear on the wheel,
if it the colour is a little bit reduced where you put your hands at the ten to two position;
likewise the gear stick Ð this one is leather covered. Again, if there are signs of wear
or the stitching is coming undone, it's probably a high mileage car.
I would have given you a tip about whether the previous owner was a smoker by looking
at the ashtray and the light but like a lot of modern cars, this one doesn't come with
an ashtray.
What it does come with though is all of the documentation that you need; the warranty,
the maintenance schedule, the service record of the car so you can check when and where
this car has been serviced. It doesn't matter too much these days if the handbook isn't
there because you can download them from the internet. What you can't download though are
the codes for things like alarms and for the radio so make sure that you've got that information
because if you haven't, if the batter is disconnected you can't reset the alarm; you can't reset
the stereo and that could cost you hundreds of pounds.
So, if after those comprehensive checks you're still interested you'll be wanting to take
the car for a test drive which is another story. But before the test drive you can be
assured that as one of the UK's leading retailers of used cars, the Co-operative Motor Group
makes sure it does a hundred point check on every used car it sells so that you can be
assured the car you're interested in is exactly the car that you think it is.