When it comes to buying a used car, it's important to test a variety of factors to make sure that you're not getting a lemon, and that you're not paying too much for a car that's not worth it. To help you out, our used-car experts have prepared a list of some of their top tips for buying a used car - find out how you can avoid making a purchase that you'll regret!
Checking the overall safety level of any car before you even commit to seeing it is an important step - there's safety information online for every single make, model and production year, so you'll be able to find out whether the car you're considering has safety features like stability control, ABS, and airbags.
Once you see the car in real life, you can look for other factors that will influence safety: check the tread of the tires, and make sure that they're evenly worn down since uneven wear can indicate a steering or suspension problem. Remember to also check under the bonnet to make sure there's no corrosion or oil leakage throughout the coolant, radiator cooling fans, and the battery.
Fuel economy, running costs & insurance
It's important to look not only at the price that you'll be paying for a used car, but the other factors that will dictate how much you end up paying over the course of owning and driving the car. Firstly, check the estimated annual fuel costs for the car online, and keep in mind that real world consumption is normally up to 25 per cent higher than the factory testing levels. You can also check the service interval for the car - six months versus a year could make a huge difference in overall costs.
Getting insurance quotes for any car before you buy is also a good idea that will help you to get a better understanding of the costs your car will be incurring over the year.
Test driving the car
It's best to take every car you're considering to buy out for a test drive on quiet roads, taking your time so you can get a fuller picture before purchase. It's important that you make sure the engine runs smoothly across a range of speeds, both on hills and the flat, and that gears change smoothly as well. Listen for mechanical noises you don't recognise - even a quiet rattle is a cause for caution - and check the brakes to make sure they're firm and don't make the car pull to one side.
Other factors that are important to check during a test drive are the car's overall and rear visibility, temperature throughout the drive, whether smoke comes out of the exhaust at all, and the amount of play that the steering wheel has - if it's more than five centimetres, there may be an issue.
Remember most good dealers avoid problem vehicles because no-one wants an unhappy customer. Ask the dealer for his opinion as they know exactly what to look for and it's really not in the dealers interest to sell you something that is going to be a problem.