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A quick guide to buying a used car

A quick guide to buying a used car
A quick guide to buying a used car

Buying a used car comes with a number of advantages. Not only can you save money on the cost of the car, but you’ll also save some cash on the cover with cheap insurance quotes. Plus, if you buy from a private seller, you could save even more on the asking price, giving you greater flexibility to find a car you really want or with a higher spec. Here, a comparison site, mustard.co.uk, offers advice on what to consider when buying a used car.

Check the car has all its documents

All cars should come with a vehicle logbook, officially called the V5C registration form. The form sets out important details including vehicle identification number (VIN) and registered keeper.

You’ll need the V5C to register and tax the car, so it’s important that the seller has this. You should also check that the VIN, engine number and colour of the car matches the information on the form. If the seller doesn’t have the V5C, they can order a replacement from the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

If you’re buying a car that’s more than three years old, it should also have a valid MOT certificate. If the seller doesn’t have this to hand, you can check its MOT status at


Look for damage

If you can, it’s better to view the car during the day. Darker evenings or poor light can mean you miss any signs of damage. Take the time to look for any uneven paint finishes, gaps in paintwork or paint where it shouldn’t be, as this could be an indication of a big repair job.

Small dents and scratches are perfectly normal in used cars sold privately and in most cases, these can be easily repaired. Minor imperfections can also be used as a bargaining tool and can help you negotiate a better price.

Check the mileage

The mileage should be broadly in line with what you’d expect from a car of its age and condition, but you can also do a quick check yourself by looking at past MOT certificates. These will all show the car’s mileage at the time of its MOT so you should see a steady increase each year.

If something seems inconsistent or a little off, finger marks behind the instrument panel and loose screws could suggest the odometer has been tampered with. 

Take the car for a test drive

Test driving the car is really the only way you’ll know if the car is right for you and will give you a chance to check the car from the inside.

Before you get in, have a look at the tread of each of the tyres, they should be fairly uniform in terms of wear. Don’t forget the minimum legal tyre tread depth is 1.6 mm so it’s well worth making sure the tyres have at least 2-3 mm of tread depth left, otherwise you’ll end up replacing them sooner rather than later. Also, make sure that seat belts are intact and show no signs of fraying. You should also be able to buckle up smoothly with no dragging or pulling on the seat belt itself. 

When you get behind the wheel, have a go at the horn, check the lights work and try the handbrake. When you’re on the test drive, listen out for any squeaking when you brake, as this could mean brake pads or discs need replacing. Gears on manual cars should be smooth to transition, again listen out for any odd noises when you change gears, for example, grinding or crunching.

Arrange car insurance for used cars

If you decide to buy a used car, especially from a private seller, remember to arrange car insurance before you drive it home. This might mean leaving the car with the seller while you put a policy in place. If you take the risk and drive it home without appropriate insurance, you can be fined and be given penalty points. If you’re taken to court, you could even be banned from driving.

If you’re in a rush, you can arrange temporary car insurance which can cover you for as little as a day up to a few weeks or even months. This should give you enough time to search and compare quotes so that you have a policy that really fits your needs.

You can start a quote and search from dozens of trusted providers at mustard.co.uk, or speak to an expert on 0330 022 8825.

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