If you’re going to borrow money to buy the car it’s a good idea to get loan quotes before you go out to view any cars. That way you’ll knowwhat you can afford and will be able to tell whether any finance a dealer offers you is goodvalue or not.
Websiteslike www.honestjohn.co.uk and model-specific forum sites can be a useful source of information on ‘common’ faults and ‘what to look for’ tips but bear in mind that the few who’ve had a poor experience are likely to be more outspoken than satisfied customers.
Don’t view a car in the rain, in poor light or at night
You won’t be able to check the condition of the car properly if it’s wet – water hides scratches, dents and other problems. Make sure you can see the vehicle clearly and from all angles.
Ask about service history
Mostcars require some work during the year so the owners of a car a few years old should have amassed quite a sheaf of garage bills for work or parts as well as previous MOT certificates, and records of regular servicing.
If there’s no history then ask why
Does it looklike there might be a persistent fault that still may not have been fixed?
Misaligned panels or mismatched colours on doors, bonnet and tailgate can indicate that the car has been repaired after a shunt. Traces of spray paint on door handles, window seals and mouldings can indicate repairs too.
If the engine bay looks like it has recently been power-washed clean the owner could be trying to remove evidence of fluid leaks. A check under the bonnet after a lengthy test drive should reveal any problems.
Seats and carpets
Seats and carpets can always be cleaned, or even replaced, but stains on internal fabric head–linings are impossible to remove completely.
If seat covers have been fitted, check underneath them for signs of damage. You can get seats replaced but this can be very expensive, particularly if they contain electric motors or airbags.
Locking wheel nuts
Adaptors for locking wheel nuts have a habit of going missing. If locking wheel nuts are fitted, check to make sure that the special adaptor required is included with the toolkit and that it fits the nuts.
Don’t be pressured into buying
There are always other vehicles out there so if this one doesn’t feel right in any way it’s time to walk away.
Be wary of and don’t be swayed by ‘sob stories’ like change of job, break-up of relationship, moving aboard, new baby on the way and so on. The bottom line is that you’re buying a car to helpyourself, not anyone else.
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