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The KwikGuide to
Buying a used car
Section 1: The Search
what to look for
check the costs
where to look
where to buyarranging to viewSection 2: The Car

oily bits
test driving
Section 3: The Dealhagglingarranging to payI've been conned!
useful links
Kwik checklist
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Buying a used car

car buying checklist

Print this page for a handy checklist of what to look out for, to take with you when going to look a car over.

Alternatively download our new printer-friendly checklist:
> Car Buying Checklist car buying checklist (86k)


KwikTip: always get a car insurance quote from Direct Line too,
as they don't take part in the price comparison websites.


- suspension: from a distance, is the car standing level?

- body panels: any scratches or panel gaps?

- paintwork: ripples, mismatched colour or stray spray?

- bodywork: look down the sides for dents or bulges

- rust: door-bottoms & sills, wheelarches, boot lid?

- wheel rims: any dents, scuffs or cracks?

- tyres: check tread depth & wear pattern. Different make at each corner = car maintained on the cheap. Wear on the outer shoulder means it's been hard

- glass: cracked or chipped, especially the windscreen? Windows etched with matching reg number?

- shock absorbers: signs of leaks or too bouncy?

- underneath: rust or evidence of welding or repairs?

- lights: all working? Any lens moisture?

- doors: creaking or ill-fitting?

read our full guide page >>


- smell: smoking? pets? damp or musty?

- carpets: feel them thoroughly for dampness

- seats: look under any covers. Bad wear, particularly on driver's side = probable high miles

- gearknob / steering wheel: shiny and worn?

- mileometer: numbers line up? Scratched or painted over?

- pedal rubbers: worn, missing or suspiciously new?

- instrument panel screws: scratched or rounded?

- doors: all handles and locks working?

- sunroof: winds back & tilts fully? No sign of leaks or rust?

- alarm: ask for a demo

- boot: look under the the carpet for rust, paint ripples or overspray. Is the spare wheel inflated and has the jack and wheel nut spanner?

read our full guide page >>


- is the engine warm? Possible bad starter that's been prepared for you.

- engine bay: very oily - where it shouldn't be? Or suspiciously sparkling clean? Signs of oil leaks? Wires or hoses hanging loose?

- hoses: hard, cracked or split?

- oil: light brown or pitch black on the dipstick? Any white foam under the oil filler cap - sign of engine wear?

- water: CARE! Check engine is cool before opening cap. Is there water to the proper level & what colour is it? Should be green or blue not a rusty colour. Does the level move when you squeeze a radiator hose?

- other fluids: are the brake fluid, gearbox and power steering oil full to the proper levels?

- wiring: cracked or burned outer coating? Neat connections or botched repairs?

- engine belts: loose or frayed?

- front suspension: rust around the mountings?

- exhaust: most will have some rust, but how serious is it?

- CV joints: split rubber bellows where the suspension arms meet the engine? Expensive MOT failure point.

- look at the ground: any oily marks where the car is usually parked?

read our full guide page >>


- YOU drive it. Are you insured to?

- comfort: can you get comfortable and see the instruments and outside the car easily?

- dash lights: are all of them on at the first click of the key? Are the gauges moving?

- starting: a large amount of smoke from the exhaust? Eager or sluggish starter? Any noisy rattling or knocking? Does it idle smoothly? Have the dash lights all gone out?

- let it idle and test the toys: do all the buttons and stalks work? Stereo? Heater / air con? Wipers & washers?

- steering: any play in the wheel at standstill? Power steering smooth and quiet lock to lock? Any vibration when on the move? Does it need correction to travel straight? Any noises driving at full lock in a circle?

- engine: does it accelerate smoothly without noticeable knocking or rattling?
Any smoke from the exhaust on revving?

- clutch: does it engage long before the top of the pedal travel? Try accelerating hard at a slow speed in a high gear - does acceleration match revs?

- gears: easy and smooth to change? No grinding or jumping out of gear?

- brakes: find a safe place to apply them hard. Does the car stop straight and quickly? No vibration, grinding, or moving to one side? Is the pedal movement smooth and easy? Is the handbrake working?

- suspension: does the car absorb bumps smoothly or bounce and hop over them? Any knocking noises on bumps?

- watch the gauges: oil, fuel, temperature - are they working and reading normal levels? Is the milometer turning? Are any warning lights on?

- let the seller drive you back: listen for annoying rattles, squeaks and

- after parking: let the engine idle and check it doesn't overheat. Any smoke
from the exhaust? Any serious drips or leaks coming from underneath the car?
Stop the engine - does it start again easily?

read our full guide page >>


- ask to see the service records and registration document (called the V5). NEVER buy a car without a V5. No documents? Walk away.

- V5: first check it's genuine - look for the DVLA watermark.

- match it to the car: check the number plate and chassis number on the V5 match those on the car. Look very carefully at the car's VIN plate or stamped chassis numbers for signs of tampering.

- MOT certificate: check the expiry date is as claimed and check that it's
genuine at www.motinfo.gov.uk

- seller's ID: check the address of the seller matches the address on the V5 and ask for proof of the seller's ID.

- on the V5: check the last change of ownership date and number of previous keepers is as claimed.

- tax disc: is it genuine and for the right car?

- service records: ideally you want to see an up-to-date, stamped dealer service book, or otherwise a big file of receipts showing regular servicing or recording what's been done to the car.

- what's been serviced: who has been doing the servicing & what has been repaired/replaced? If a vital service like a cambelt change, call the dealer to
confirm it was done.

- regular services: how long before the next service is due?

- check mileage: compare the dates on service receipts with the car's mileages, if recorded - and to the car's current milometer reading. See how the car's mileage has changed over time. Does it all add up?

- warranty: find out what's covered and what's not - parts and labour? Ask about excesses, limitations and whether anything would invalidate it.

- speak to the previous owner: if at a dealer, note the name & address of the previous keeper from the V5 and use directory enquiries to give them a call. Did they have any problems with the car - why did they sell it?

- get a car history check: a dealer should have done this already - ask them. If not, or if buying privately, ring one of the car history checking agencies on our
links page
. Don't get lumbered with a car that's been stolen, not fully paid for, or written off.

read our full guide page >>

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