But there are risks so it's important to take your time rather than rush into any deal, and to buy as far as possible with your head rather than your heart.
Pitfalls to watch out for, when buying a used car
This is when the remains of two or more cars, which have usually been accident–damaged and written off by insurers, are welded together, then illegally given the identity of one of the wrecks.
The cosmetic work is often outstanding, and it's usually very difficult to spot a 'cut–and–shut' from the outside.
For absolute confidence, invest in aCar Data Checkto unearth the car's history.
Do your homework
Check price guides and compare similar cars in the classifieds so you know as much as you can about the value of different cars to avoid being overcharged.
Websites likewww.honestjohn.co.ukand 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
如果是湿的，您将无法正确检查汽车的状况 - 水隐藏了划痕，凹痕和其他问题。确保您可以清楚地看到车辆。
Ask about service history
Most cars 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.
- Does it look like there might be a persistent fault that still may not have been fixed?
- Does the history tell a consistent story
Check for outstanding finance
Buying, leasing or hiring a car on finance is more popular than it's ever been. This means that a large proportion of vehicles on the road are actually owned by finance providers until their customers, the driver or keeper, pay off the finance agreement in full.
If you buy from someone who's not paid off their finance agreement, the finance provider could recover the car, potentially leaving you out of pocket and without a car.
This makes it more important than ever to carry out aCar Data Check, particularly if you're buying from a private seller or online auction/advertising site. Most reputable dealers will have carried out a vehicle check before putting the car on the forecourt, but we'd advise you to check with the dealer that it's been done.
V5C registration document
Insist on seeing the V5C vehicle registration document - this shows the registered keeper and not the legal owner.
Is the present keeper the person selling you the car? If not, then why are they selling the car for someone else?
The V5C shows the details of previous keepers too. Why not contact them to find out more about when they owned the car, what work was done and how many miles they covered?
Previous keepers have no vested interest so you should be able to rely on their comments
- 做they service it regularly?
- 做they do much mileage in it?
- 做they have any major servicing work done it?
- 做they modify the vehicle in any way?
If the car is three years old or more make sure there's a continuous series of annual MOT 'certificates'.
如果您知道车辆的注册号和V5C上的文档参考，则可以检查车辆的MOT状态和历史(back to 2005) online too.
Recorded mileage should increase steadily with age and be consistent with the service record. If it doesn't then you'll want to hear a good explanation as to why not.
Be wary of anything that seems like a real bargain, or has a very low mileage for its age. There are bargains to be had but in general, if a deal looks too good to be true then it most likely is.
If you know what you're doing then use our DIY inspection checklist to help make sure you look the car over thoroughly.
Some engines have a chain instead of a belt and these normally last the life of the vehicle but if your car does have a belt you must make sure it's replaced when due.
If a belt change was due but the service record doesn't show clearly that it was done then the belt will have to be renewed as soon as possible for peace of mind.
Look to see how the security system works – and check that it does – and find out what keys were provided when the car was new. Modern car keys can cost £100+ to replace so if you need more than one key and there's only one available you'll need to bear that cost in mind.
Coloured 'master' keys provided by some manufacturers to programme new spare keys for the car are even more expensive to replace.
There's no legal requirement but cars are generally sold new with at least one spare key. If there's not a spare now ask why not.
The test drive is your only opportunity to check the car's general mechanical condition and to find our for sure that it meets all your needs:
- Does the golf bag or pushchair fit in the boot?
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
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 help yourself, not anyone else.
- Agree collection/delivery arrangements
- Confirm any work that the seller has agreed to do
- Make sure you get a receipt showing vehicle details, price, terms of sale and the seller's details.
(updated 9 August 2016)