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checking a car for faults

You don't have to be an expert to give a car a revealing going-over and get a good idea of its condition. But if you're not confident doing this, take someone who is. Very expensive mistakes can be made if you don't do this properly.

Organisations like AimVI and the RAC offer expert inspection services costing from £100. This might seem like a lot, but it could save you much more, by preventing an expensive mistake or giving you expert info you can use to haggle the car's price down.

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

Dress in old jeans and take a torch, tissues and a tape or CD to check the stereo. Bring a friend. Inspect the car in broad daylight on a dry day, never when wet or under artificial light. Make sure the car is parked on a level service and hasn't just been driven. Be suspicious if it's parked hard up against anything - it may be deliberate to hide something. Ask for it be moved into the open.

First tip is: watch your attitude. Don't under any circumstances be enthusiastic or complementary about the car, even if you adore it at first sight. If the seller knows you love it, you're much less likely to get a good deal.

So on your inspection, be sure to point out all the things wrong with the car. Prod any scratches, dents or spots of rust, even if they don't concern you greatly. Don't be too theatrical - you just need to let the seller know you've noticed lots of faults that could put you off.

Make negative comparisons with other, cheaper cars you've seen, real or imaginary. Wave a copy of Autotrader or the local newspaper's motoring section.

To set yourself up for the deal, you've got to knock the seller's confidence in the price and the likelihood of a sale. When you get to haggling, you need to have let the seller know that you're not that impressed by the car - there's lots you'd want to sort out - but it might just do for the right price.

With the right viewing attitude in mind, click below to read about what to check on the car.

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checking a car for faults: the outside >>

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