Simple mistake HALF drivers make when buying 2nd-hand car – and how to avoid it

HALF of drivers looking to buy a second-hand car don’t bother to carry out a number of basic checks, a survey has revealed.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re getting a bargain, not an old banger.

Anyone thinking of buying a second-hand car needs to carry out a number of checks on the vehicle

Anyone thinking of buying a second-hand car needs to carry out a number of checks on the vehicleCredit: Getty

An AA poll of more than 15,000 drivers found that most fail to carry out even basic checks when purchasing a second-hand car. 

Check the documents

The survey found only half of drivers – 54 per cent – check the service history and MOT documents before buying a used car, while only a third – 36 per cent – carry out a history check.

It’s also important to check that things like mileage, age and appearance all seem consistent.

A vehicle’s MOT test history can easily be viewed on the government’s website.

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Look out for any advisory notes. These highlight potential issues that aren’t great enough to cause an MOT failure but which could lead to one in the near future.

Also inspect the car’s service book for stamps and ask the owner if they’ve got the receipts for any maintenance work.

Physical checks

You don’t need to be an expert mechanic to check over your potential purchase.

Less than two in five drivers – 38 per cent – said they ensured that windscreen wipers were working when they last bought a used car, and only two in five – 41 per cent – checked that all the lights were functioning properly.

Only a quarter of drivers checked the oil level when they last bought a used car, while 39 per cent inspected the tyres for cuts and bulges.

It’s a legal requirement that all tyres have a minimum tread of 1.6mm to be roadworthy.

The electrics on a car will need checking too – make sure things like the air-conditioning works both on hot and cold, the windows move up and down and the heated seats work.

Take a test drive

You’ll need the owner’s permission to do this but alarm bells should ring if they refuse.

Make sure you have the right insurance to be able to do this and could land yourself in hot water if there is an accident.

The AA survey found three in five – 66 per cent – took a car for a test drive last time they bought a used vehicle, with more than half – 55 per cent – listening out for abnormal noises. 

Inspect the paintwork

The survey found that the majority of people – 57 per cent – looked over a car’s paintwork to make sure it was up-to-scratch.

Check for any gaps in the panels, this could be a sign the car has been involved in an accident in the past.

Inspect any dents and scratches carefully. Any that have gone through the paintwork down to the metal could be a cause of corrosion.

James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars said: “A car is an expensive purchase, but many drivers are parting with their money without carrying out even basic checks.

“Understandably, considering all the checks it is recommended that drivers make before buying a vehicle, most people do not feel very confident about their ability to judge a car’s condition before they drive away. 

“However, we always recommend drivers book a professional vehicle inspection before parting with their money. A qualified inspector will be able to carry out over 200 detailed checks and will highlight any potential problems, letting the potential buyer know if it is safe to drive and whether it is likely to require any expensive repairs in the near future.

“Other ways to protect yourself include buying from a dealer rather than a private seller.

“Purchasing from a dealer gives consumers protection under the Consumer Rights Act, which gives rights for a repair, replacement or some money back if a fault comes to light in the first six months after purchase as long as the problem was present when you bought the car. 

“Getting a warranty is another way to protect yourself from any potential costly repairs in the future. Some dealers may offer them when you buy the car, and you can also organise for one yourself.

“Always be sure to check the small print so that you know what is and isn’t included, so you do not have any unwelcome surprises should you encounter a problem with your car.”

It's recommended people carefully check for any dents and scratches

It’s recommended people carefully check for any dents and scratchesCredit: Getty

Video reveals the lengths car dealers go to so second-hand ones look good as new