Used Car

Buying a Used Car: The Check List

So you have decided to buy a car and like many other UK buyers, you have decided to be kind to your wallet and go for a used car…

UK has seen a rise in dodgy car dealers

That’s great! Now all that you need to do is make sure that you get yourself a quality used car from a quality seller. Whether you are buying your car from a private seller or an auto trader, you should always follow certain inspection steps that will help you make sure that you are not being tricked into buying a faulty or stolen vehicle. 

With the help of IAM RoadSmart we have put together a list of things that you may want to take into consideration when buying a used car. Apart from the legal stuff, unless a fault has been declared and the price has been reduced accordingly, you should not tolerate any issues and report any suspicious car dealer.

Legal stuff

  • Check the ‘log book’ (V5) against the number (VIN) on the car. If the V5 is not present, do not purchase the car
  • The V5 does not prove ownership, so check the person selling it is the actual owner – ask for a receipt or contract from the dealer
  • Do your research. Check the mileage and MOT history at

Insides (Engine and Safety)

  • Blown turbochargers, snapped timing chains, smoking engines – all these and more can result from delaying an oil change or using the wrong oil. Ask for the service history and take time to look through it. If a service is due negotiate on the price, but if the history’s missing, walk away
  • Dashboard lights are important. Check all the systems such as ABS and stability control. Make sure they all light up when you turn on the ignition and go out after a few seconds or when you start the engine. Check the handbook if you’re not sure you’ve seen them all
  • After starting the engine, listen carefully for the first few seconds – any knocks or rattles are bad signs. Grey exhaust smoke is a sign of a worn engine – check it after your test drive when the engine is hot
  • As well as checking the suspension by listening for rattles or clunks over rough roads, try stopping at different rates – gently and rapidly. The engine should never stall as the car stops and the revs shouldn’t drop very low and then pick up to the right idle speed
  • If airbags are fitted, Check that warning lights operate as described in the handbook – normally they will come on with the ignition and then go out


Best car safety features

  • Check for any prominent wearing and scratches on the inside of the car’s fabrics and panels
  • Make sure that all the windows, including sunroof if there is one, open and close properly
  • Check whether the child lock is functioning properly
  • Check for any signs of forced entry, damaged or changed locks, suggesting that they might have been replaced
  • Check for the tyre changing kit and make sure that it matches the car that you are buying
  • Make sure that all the minor controls operate properly, such as the radio, navigation, heating, ventilation etc.


  • Check for any external scratches on the car’s windows and body paint
  • Make sure that the car’s tyres are all fitted with correct bolts that match the tools in the tyre changing kit
  • Are the tyres in good condition? If not, they may need changing very soon
  • Look for any unusual marks that could have been caused by welding, especially under the car’s bonnet
  • Does the car look like it is even coloured? Mismatch in colour might mean that there has been attempt to hide significant damage
  • Be sure to check that the car’s body parts are all of the same make and have not been replaced, replacements might me an attempt to hide significant damage

There has indeed been a significant drop in new car sales, read our article here to find out why