Tips on Buying your car

Here we have listed standard checks to make for each area of a used car. They will help in identifying any misuse or signs of neglect or damage.


Do all the electrics work?

Do all the switches, controls and displays work properly?

Are the seats and carpets all dry? If not, there might be a leak somewhere.



Check if the bodywork is free from dents, rust and scratches.

Where possible try not to check the car in the dark or the wet, as you may miss problems.

Look along the sides of the car for mild dents.

Pull back and check behind rubber seals around windows to check if the paintwork is free from overspray.

Look out for signs of extra layers of paint, or badly matching spray marks. These may besigns of an accident repair.

Look under the bonnet and the boot. Wherever there is visible metal you should look for badly matching paintwork or buckling. These may be signs of a repair.



Is the exhaust system free from smoke when you start the engine?  If not, there may be a problem.

Is the water tank full of brightly coloured coolant? Make sure it is not empty or brown. And  look for any leaks.

Make sure there is plenty of oil in the engine, which should be clean. Check and make Sure the oil in the engine does not smell burnt.


Test Drive

Does the vehicle drive in a straight line? Especially when you let go of your grip on the Steering wheel?

Is there any play in the steering or judder?

Does the vehicle pull to one side when braking? And listen out for any noises or judder when braking.


Contact Details

When buying privately it’s wise to do your research on the seller as well as the vehicle. Get a landline telephone number, but you should be aware that it could be for a public telephone box , or might transfer to another phone. Always meet a private seller at their home address. Check that the car is registered on the V5c to that address and look for signs that they reside there. If you feel unhappy with the other party, trust your instincts and walk away. Do not be tempted by that elusive bargain.


Vehicle Numbers & Marks

Check that the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) matches that on the documents, and has not been tampered with. The VIN number can be found in at least three places on a vehicle. The ‘visible’ VIN plate is under the windscreen, on the nearside (left) of the car, under where the tax disc should be. The ‘VIN plate/sticker’ will normally be somewhere under the bonnet. There will be a number stamped in the main body and this is located differently for each type of vehicle. Be very wary if there are any signs of etching or that numbers have been tampered with or removed. Make sure that the vehicle registration document (V5c) has not been tampered with and that the document is watermarked. Compare the document with another V5c or look at the V5c for your own vehicle.

2003 Ford E-450


Do not buy if the seller cannot produce the vehicle registration document and other documentation (e.g. MOT or, for a new vehicle, the purchasing correspondence). Confirm the service history with the garages shown, if possible.



Consider having the vehicle professionally examined before you buy, either through a motoring association, private company or garage. They will examine the vehicle and be able to give you more safety with your transaction.


Do Your Research

Find out about the model of car that you want to buy, check that the car you are looking at is of the correct specification. When buying a secondhand vehicle, you should check to make sure that the vehicle you are buying is the property of the seller and has not been stolen.

Consider doing a HPI Check (Hire Purchase Interest).

HPI holds an enormous amount of information about all vehicles in the UK, A check from HPI  will cover you,  as you will be able to see if the vehicle you are considering buying is, or has,  any of the following:


Outstanding Finance

A Stolen Vehicle

A Stolen V5 Document


Vehicle Identity Problems

Mileage Problems

Number Plate and VIN/Chassis number match


Click the link below to be directed to the HPI Website:


After you have purchased a vehicle and to keep it in good working order it may be worth carrying out weekly checks below:


P – Petrol. Make sure you have sufficient fuel to complete your journey.

O – Oil.  Make sure your oil does not drop below the minimum marker.

W – Water. Water keeps the engine cool. So keep it topped up.

E – Electrics. Check all electrics on the car work e.g. Lights, Indicators, etc

R – Rubber. Tyres should be in good condition to grip the road. Even in the wet.