By Michael Challiner
• Do some initial homework. Find out about the type of car you are considering. Check out any known mechanical problems with that model.
• Check out the current second hand values for the car. A good place to start is www.what car .com. Also get your local paper and some of the specialist second hand car magazines and look up the prices of similar cars.
• How much will it cost you to insure the car? That's so easy to do on the Internet – get a quote or two. It'll just take a few minutes.
• Also check out the car's other running costs. Again www.what car .com will help. Make sure you can afford to run the car!
• When you go to see a car insist on seeing the registration documentation, including its MOT certificate if the car is more than 3 years old. This will also show the cars' chassis number. Check that the documents all tallies with the car. Be sure that the person selling the car does actually own it and always see it at the seller's own home or business premises.
• Make sure that the address on the Registration Document is the address where you are viewing the car - if not ask why. Be suspicious.
• Examine the Road Tax disc. Is it still valid and do the registration number on the disc matches the Registration document?
• Ask to look at the cars' Service Record. This will also show the cars' chassis number and details of the first owner. If the Service record is not available, has the owner kept any of the service or repair bills?
• Now look under the bonnet and find the VIN Number (it could also be on the chassis). Check out that the VIN number tallies with the number on the Registration Document and that the number stamped on the car has not been interfered with. This will help to ensure that the car hasn't had its identity changed.
• Take a friend with you who knows' about cars – not only to look at the car but also to be a witness for what is said and agreed.
• Never pay for a car on your first visit and don't be pushed into paying a deposit. You need to carry out some checks before you part with any money (see 17 below).
• Ask the owner if the car has outstanding finance. Take notes of what he/she says. When you get home check out the information with RAC Vehicle Status Check. Go to the RAC' web site. Click on Car Buying and then Vehicle Status Checks. The Status Check will cost you £24.99 but it will tell you if the vehicle has outstanding finance.
• Carefully examine the car in good daylight. Look for signs of repairs and accident damage. If you have followed our advice and obtained a Vehicle Status Checks, the Check will also tell you if the car had previously been “written off”.
• Make sure that the car hasn't been clocked. Be aware that the average mileage is around 12,000 per year. Be wary if the wear on the car looks greater than the mileage would suggest. The wear on the drivers pedals may help. Then ask when the car last had new tyres. Then look at wear on the tyres. Does the wear look about right?
• Always test-drive the car for at least 10/15 miles. By the way, don't forget to ensure you are insured to drive it! Do not automatically assume that your own insurance will cover you for driving someone else's car. Check your insurance documents before you leave home. If the seller says his insurance covers you, ask to see his policy – better safe than sorry!
• Still interested in the car? Then get it independently inspected.
• Never hand over any money until you have seen the results of the RAC Vehicle Status Check. And even then don't pay any money until the car is handed over to you with its Documents. Always get a written receipt for your payment which includes the sellers name and address.
• Finally, make sure you have insurance in place from the minute you drive the car away. Did you know that the Police can now impound, and ultimately scrap, your car if you're driving it without insurance or road tax? If the car has not got Road Tax, drop in at a Post Office on the way home and buy one. You'll need to show an insurance cover note for the vehicle and its up to date MOT Certificate to do this.
About The Author
Michael Challiner writes for Brokers Online ( http://www.life-assurance-bureau.co.uk ) who offer life insurance cover and most UK financial services including car insurance ( http://www.life-assurance-bureau.co.uk/car-insurance/ ). Visit our finance blog for useful tips on uk finance ( http://www.life-assurance-bureau.co.uk/family-finance/ )