While we know that using VCARS.co.uk offers confidence, peace of mind and a guarantee of service excellence, we understand that buying a used car can be daunting – particularly for those without a mechanic background. There are, however, ways to spot tell-tale signs of trouble, especially when buying from a non-VCARS.co.uk accredited dealer or a private seller.
Our 25-point plan is most relevant when buying a car from a non-VCARS accredited dealer or a private seller. However, VCARS-accredited dealers will be more than happy for you to make the following checks, because they’ve done so already.
Wherever you decide to make your next used car purchase, follow these points and you’ll be able to make a confident, informed decision and drive away with some peace of mind
VCARS 25-point plan to Inspecting A Used Car
- Always view the car in daylight to get the fullest possible picture, as well as any dints and scratches.
- Ask many owners the car has had and how long those owners had the car.
- Ask how many miles the car has covered.
- Ask how long the MOT has remaining.
- Ask how long the Road Tax has remaining.
- Examine the Logbook, Service History and MOT certificates.
- Ask what maintenance has been carried out in the last year/what will be needed in the year ahead?
- Check the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This should be at: a) Base of windscreen b) Under the bonnet c) Stamped into the chassis beside driver’s seat. Make sure they match the VIN in the logbook.
- Look for uneven gaps between body panels, it could equal rebuild/crash.
- Make sure all features work including air conditioning, electric windows, sunroof, adjustable seats, fuel-filler and bonnet release.
- Does bodywork have a consistent paint finish? If not, has it had a respray?
- Does the boot open cleanly? If not, has it had a respray?
- When pressing the car down on each corner, does it return smoothly to normal height? If not, suspension may need looking at.
- Bubbly paintwork around the wheel arches, bumpers or window frames? If so, it’s probably rust.
- Are the tyres and the spare wheel tread more than 1.6mm? Test with a depth gauge (you can get them from car shops).
- Do the tyres have even wear? If not, suspension or tracking could need adjusting.
- Does the convertible roof move up and down smoothly and lock into place?
- Are there any oil, water or fluid leaks? Check engine and floor.
- Is oil at right level and free from debris? If not, there’s neglect.
- On the top of the engine, unclip plastic cover, is there a white substance? If so, it could be a damaged head gasket, which is often impossible to replace.
- Are battery connections rust free? If not, it may need replacing soon.
- Are the engine coolant and brake fluid levels at the right level?
- Does the car have a shiny steering wheel and low mileage? Warning sign.
- Is there a damaged steering column? Could have been stolen.
- Are there frayed seatbelts? Could mean the car has been in a crash and airbags activated.
If you have any top tips to add to our list, please leave your comments below.