Questions to ask when buying a car

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Know what to ask when buying a used car, this will show the seller you are not a pushover. It will also help to protect you legally if you later have problems with the car.

Do your homework and know what to ask when buying a car – these apply to both a dealer and private seller

  • Can I see the V5C (logbook)? You need to check the details on the V5C match those details on the car itself:
    • Number plate.
    • VIN (vehicle identification number) – found on a metal plate in the engine compartment and somewhere else on the body of the car as well. Modern vehicles show it on the windscreen.
    • Engine number.
    • Colour.
  • Can I see the Full-Service History? Does car has a Full-Service history (FSH), this is a sign it has been well looked after and is likely to be more reliable. However, not all cars will have this history, and you need to carefully look at what there is available, such as garage receipts for repairs and service.
  • Can I see the MOT Certificates? All cars three years and older require an annual MOT test. You must understand the current MOT certificate – certificates for older cars tend to get lost. As long as you have the vehicle registration and the V5C document reference number, you can check an MOT issued after 2005. This check will show the vehicle’s registered mileage at each MOT.
  • Are there any MOT advisory items? Look at the current MOT are there any advisory items indicated? Have they been done? If not, how much they will cost?
  • Has the car been in any accidents? If yes, then examine the repair work.
  • What is the car’s mileage and can you prove it is genuine? Check the MOT certificates and service records for mileage consistency.
  • Are there any parts of the car that don’t work or are awkward to operate? The seller must answer these questions truthfully.

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Questions to ask the dealer

  • What does the price include? Perhaps a warranty, road tax, a tank of petrol, or a year’s MOT is a good one.
  • If you’re using dealer finance, make sure you understand the full terms and conditions. Always look around and compare credit options.
  • What does the warranty cover? You need to know what the warranty covers and for what period.

Questions to ask the private seller

  • Can the seller provide proof of identity and ownership? You must be confident the seller is the registered keeper – the person named on the V5C registration certificate. If they are not, you need proof they have the authority to sell the car, if you are not satisfied to walk away.
  • How long have you owned the car? If they have only had the car a short time, then who was the previous owner? Have they had any problems with the car?
  • Why are you selling the car? You want to confirm they have a genuine reason for selling the car, and they are not trying to sell you a problem car.
  • Where do you live? Don’t meet in a car park or other public place. You want to meet at the seller’s home – the address on the V5C registration certificate. Be sensible and take a friend with you, as you don’t know this person you’re meeting.
  • How do you use the car? Is it just for a usual mix of town and distance driving? You don’t want a rally driver’s old car!
  • Has anything on the car been replaced? What is the condition of the tyres and exhaust? When were they last replaced? Ask when the next MOT is due and what might need replacing on the car.


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