Essential checklist for a viewing a used car

What should you look for when you pop the hood on a car? What do you need to check in the interior? What documents should a seller have? If you’re about to view a selection of used cars and you’re asking yourself these questions, don’t panic. Here’s your essential checklist…

  1. Do they have the right documentation?

If you’re going to view a private-seller vehicle, there are a few essential questions you should ask and paperwork you need to see. Can the seller show you the V5C registration document? You won’t be able to tax the car without it, and if they don’t have it or are not named on it, it’s important to understand why. When viewing the document, you should also check that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN),engine number and colour match the details on the V5C. If anything seems suspicious to you where the paperwork is concerned, walk away.

  1. Learn the warning signs

Whether you’re visiting a garage or a private seller, there are a few warning signs you need to be wary of when checking over the vehicle. Is the car hot to the touch, a sign that it’s been warmed up prior to your arrival? Does the mileage seem accurate for the age of the car? You can check the recorded mileage on service records, MOT ‘certificates’ and other documents, but also look out for any signs that instruments have been tampered with, such as worn screws.

  1. Ask about damage

It might be when you view the vehicle that there are signs of damage not previously mentioned in the online description. Be sure to check the story of this with the seller, but always conduct an online HPI check, which scans online records for any accidents the car has been involved in. You should also make a note of scratches, rust and any other issues with the condition of the car, as it will help you to negotiate a lower price later.

  1. Safety first

Once you’ve gone over the administration and initial look of the vehicle, it’s time to delve a little deeper. Your first consideration should be safety, so start with the tyres and whether they’re in good condition to the correct specification, with no visible cuts or bulges. Is there a spare wheel, and a working tyre inflator? Are the jack and other tools included? Are all the seatbelts working, or are any fraying and in need of replacement?

  1. Check over the interior

Once you move inside the car, check all upholstery for staining, rips and tears that will cost you to repair. Check every button, lever and gadget, from the radio and air conditioning to the built-in sat-nav system. Then, move on to your lights, and make sure everything is in working condition, including side lights, head lights, full beam, indicators, your hazard warning button, brake lights, fog lights and so on.

If you’d like some more tips on what to look for when viewing a used car, click here. Or, leave your own advice below…

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