It can be quite a nerve-wracking time trying to buy a used car – there are none of the usual warranties and guarantees you would have with a new vehicle, and all you have to go on is the word of a stranger. Doesn’t sound exactly ideal does it! You can always pay someone to do a check of a used car’s history for you, but if you don’t want to shell out the cash, there are a few things that you can to do give yourself the best chance of buying a car that will stand the test of time.

car buyer

Look at the paintwork – check there are no bubbles that might indicate rust underneath and that the paint colour is consistent all over the car. If the paint looks patchy then the car could have a history of damage that has been sprayed over after repairs.

Check out the tyres – you’re looking to make sure that no one side of the car has worn down more than the other. If it has, there may be issues with the suspension or track alignment, or the vehicle might have a history of being damaged in a crash. Also, look to make sure that the tread depth is at least 1.6mm – more if possible.

Look at the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – check that it is the same as the one noted in the car’s logbook and that it has not been tampered with. You will find the VIN on a metal strip that is located either underneath the carpet under the steering wheel, at the bottom of the windscreen, or under the bonnet.

Check out the paperwork – you need to look at whether or not the home address of the seller is the same as the address in the car’s logbook, as well as requesting MOT certificates and evidence of servicing. Check the car’s mileage to see if it seems genuine – it should have increased gradually over a period of time. If you want to make sure the MOT certificates are real then give the garage named on them a call, and remember that a genuine logbook should have a watermark.

Look under the bonnet – for rust free terminals and connectors. Look out for any fluid leaks around the engine or other mechanical parts, check the fluid levels for engine coolant and brake fluid to make sure they are at the right place, and look out for a thick, white substance one or around the engine, which may be an indicator that the engine is damaged. It’s a good idea to take a look at the oil dipstick as this can be used to check for a history of neglect – in particular look out for oil that is not a gold colour and free from bits, which will indicate a bad owner.

Appraise the wear on the car – for example look at the way doors and the boot open and close, have a feel and take a look at the seats, steering wheel and interiors to see whether the car really is as young as it is being sold as, and look out for any damage to the ignition or to the steering column as this could indicate a stolen car.

Check that everything works – from the air conditioning and sunroof, to the bonnet release. Take a good look at the seatbelts and see if they are damaged or frayed, as this could indicate a crash. Test the suspension by pushing down gently on the corners of the car to see if it rises back smoothly or bounces.

If you’re planning to buy a used car then these are some easy ways to see what kind of history a car really has. Carrying out these few tests will give you great piece of mind so that you will know – as far as you can – that you’re really driving away the bargain that you think you are.