Tips for Buying a Used Car

Buying a car is exciting, but it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement and end up with a lemon of a vehicle. Buying a used car from a dealership comes with less headache. There’s often a warranty in case anything goes wrong and you know where to bring the car for issues. But this extra comfort comes with an extra price tag. Buying a car privately means no warranty if it breaks down a week later, but you can sometimes save yourself a substantial sum of money.

No matter how or where you buy a used car there are a few things to look out for that we’ve listed below. Keep them in mind next time you’re in the market for a new car.

Good Weather

When you’re arranging a time to view a car first check the forecast for that date. View the car on a dry day. You, or your mechanic friend, won’t be as likely to get down on the wet ground for a good look into and under the car or wheel arches. Also, in the wet, colour differences or scuffs and scratches won’t show as easily, these can be an indication a panel has been replaced or repainted after a repair.

Hidden repairs – check hinges

This leads nicely to the next tip. While you’re going through the inside, outside and checking the engine, have a look at the hinges. Hinges get painted along with the rest of the car in the factory. If there’s paint missing or a different colour, it may be a replaced panel which indicates the car was in a crash and repaired. If the seller hasn’t already told you about the crash that can be a warning sign. Crashed cars can be perfect, but can also come with a list of issues and there’s little way of ensuring the repairs were done to a high standard.

Clocked mileage

Clocking back the mileage of a car is the illegal practice of physically winding back the odometer to make the car seem like it has less miles than the reality. More modern cars with computerised systems make this much harder or impossible. If you’re viewing an older car with low mileage, check that the interior wear and tear matches with the amount of miles the car reportedly has. If there’s a lot of wear and tear for a car that’s seemingly been used very little this is a red flag that the odometer has been rewound. The car’s service history is another key check of this.

Warning lights

Warning lights are just that, a big warning. Any warning light is a fail for the NCT. We’d advise the only time to consider a car with warning lights is if you’re looking specifically for a fixer-upper to tinker on and know what you’re doing.

Bring a mechanic

Some people are into cars, change their own oil and filters and know the ins and outs of engine bays. For the rest of us, we need a mechanic. Bringing a mechanic who knows what they’re looking at when they check brake calipers or wheel arches, and who knows what questions to ask can be worth a little extra money paid to the mechanic.

Who’s the seller

A seller is either private and selling their own personal car, usually without warranty but for a cheaper price, or they’re a dealer where you often get a warranty and some peace of mind but for a little extra cost. If you’re meeting a private seller you should bring a friend and meet in a secure, preferably public location. If the private seller has multiple cars for sale take it as a warning sign. They may be trying to avoid business taxes or worse.

Check the logbook

As we mentioned when checking the car is not clocked you should always check the logbook. Make sure it has been filled out correctly and services have been done on time and stamped by a mechanic. Newer cars might have a digital service book that’s tied into the cars infotainment system. You also need to make sure the logbook owner details match the seller and the logbook VIN matches the one on the car, don’t be afraid to ask for ID.

Background check

Following closely from checking the logbook is doing a background check. If you’re getting serious about a car it’s time to do a background check. Using the registration number in the likes of gives you a wealth of information. It will confirm the car specifications as well as telling you if it’s been in an accident or written off. Any discrepancies are something to watch out for. Make sure the seller has a valid reason. The cost is not much, about €35 and well worth the price.

Paying for the car

Once you’ve inspected the car, checked the logbook, done a background check and agreed on a price it’s time to pay up. Avoid cash, use a cheque or pay by card or bank transfer. This way there’s a history of the transfer if anything comes up in the future.

Buying a new, or new to you car, is exciting. There’s a lot to worry about and hope you get right but follow these steps and you’ll be well on the way to driving in confidence.

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