How to Check a Used Car Before Buying: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you considering buying a used car? It’s essential to perform thorough checks before committing to a purchase to ensure you’re getting a reliable vehicle. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the key steps to check a used car, including DVLA checks, vehicle inspections, and test drives.

Vehicle Details Check

Before buying a used car, it’s crucial to verify the vehicle’s information, whether you’re purchasing from a reputable dealer or a private seller. To check the details, you’ll need the vehicle’s registration number, make, model, MOT test number, and the V5C vehicle registration certificate (log book).

Using the GOV.UK website, you can:

  • Verify that the provided details match DVLA’s information
  • Check the vehicle’s MOT history
  • Ensure the vehicle hasn’t been recalled due to safety issues
  • Confirm the log book isn’t for a stolen vehicle

Once you’ve confirmed the information is correct, legal, and up-to-date, you can proceed to inspect the vehicle in person and take it for a test drive.

Vehicle Inspection

When inspecting a used car, take your time to thoroughly check the vehicle’s condition, both inside and out. Start with the exterior, looking for any damage, uneven panel gaps, rust, or inconsistent paint color. Check the roof’s condition, especially if it’s a convertible, and ensure the tyres have sufficient tread and even wear.

Moving to the interior, verify that all lights and indicators function properly. Check the mileage and ensure it’s consistent with the vehicle’s overall wear. Test the seat belts, adjustability of seats, steering wheel controls, electric windows, mirrors, ventilation, and other internal equipment.

Don’t forget to assess the cabin’s comfort and space, considering factors like child seat compatibility and boot capacity.

Insurance and Test Drive

Before test driving a used car, ensure you have proper insurance coverage. Your existing insurance may cover test drives, or the seller might extend their insurance. Alternatively, obtain temporary comprehensive cover from your insurer.

During the test drive, keep the radio off to listen for unusual noises or rattling from the engine. Pay attention to the steering, gear changes, and brakes, ensuring they’re smooth and responsive. Drive on familiar routes and practice parking and other manoeuvres you regularly perform.

If you’re satisfied with the vehicle’s condition and performance, you can proceed with the purchase. Always obtain a receipt that includes both parties’ details and consider recording the seller’s identification.

Checklist Summary

  • Check vehicle documents and information (V5C, service history, MOT)
  • Inspect the car’s exterior and underside during daylight
  • Check wheels, tyres, and tread depth
  • Thoroughly examine the interior, boot, dash, and electronics
  • Ensure proper insurance coverage before the test drive
  • Take your time during the test drive
  • Check the engine for leaks, oil level, head gasket condition, and exhaust smoke
  • Assess the gearbox and clutch for smoothness and responsiveness

Taking Your Used Car Abroad If you plan to take your used vehicle abroad, you’ll need to provide a Certificate of Conformity (COC). GetCOC is the top provider of official and authentic COCs valid in all EU and EEA countries. They offer a simple and hassle-free process to obtain your vehicle’s COC.

By following this comprehensive guide and conducting thorough checks, you can confidently purchase a used car that meets your needs and ensures a reliable driving experience.