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The Ultimate Car Buyers Guide

So, you want to buy a car. The trouble is, you have also heard so many stories and read so many articles about buyers who have been ripped off (or very disappointed in their purchase) that you’re having an attack of nerves!

So, you want to buy a car.
The trouble is, you have also heard so many stories and read so many articles about buyers who have been ripped off (or very disappointed in their purchase) that you’re having an attack of nerves!
Let’s be clear that the majority of vehicles are purchased without any particular problem at all and buyers are typically happy with the final outcome.  Even so, if you’d like to reduce your chances of ending up being someone with a horror story to tell others, you might want to think about some of the following risk-reduction steps.

Take your time

Unless you are contemplating a vehicle that is hand-built and an extremely rare beast, the chances are there are going to be plenty of cars around of the type you are looking for.
So, there is no need to be rushed (though many private sellers and dealership salespeople will try to do exactly that to you).  Buying a car in haste is more likely to leave you exposed to making errors, so if you feel you don’t have time to think about things carefully beforehand, simply walk away and wait for another one to come along.

Verify the seller

Whether the advertiser is a dealership or private individual, make sure that you get their:
full name and address (trading address if a business);
telephone number – preferably a landline;
details of their employer – if they are a private seller.
Don’t just take their word for these things.  Make sure that you check what you are being told by doing things such as:
checking their telephone number in directories;
phoning them at a pre-checked work number to make sure they work there (call them on the company’s main number – if the operator’s never heard of them then it’s not a good sign);
if a business, research online how long they have been in business operation.  You can also see if anyone has posted any negative online reviews or warnings about the way they conduct their affairs;
for private individuals, try to verify via perhaps personal visit or various reference sources, the home address they have quoted is correct and how long they have lived there.  A good trick here is to ask them to show you an original copy of a couple of utility bills they had say six months or more ago showing the address they have just given you. Only ask to see those after they’ve given you their home address.
The overall objective here is to try and check that they are who they say they are.

Check that they actually own the car and therefore are able to legally sell it to you

This is a big issue because if you find after purchase that the vehicle is stolen, it can be repossessed by the police and without any compensation coming to you.
To reduce the risks of this happening:
check the registration number of the vehicle on the various internet sites that allow you to see whether there is any record of it being stolen;
at the same time, you should be able to check online to see whether there are any outstanding finance issues on the car or whether or not it has been previously subject to an insurance write-off using a service such as HPI Check. We can even do this for you if you choose to take finance from
cross-check that the vehicle identification number, normally firmly inscribed into the chassis,  is in fact, the same as on the vehicle’s registration document;
sadly, thieves are devious and it is not unknown for vehicle identification documents to be altered or forged.  Make sure the one you are being shown has a watermark and absolutely no indication whatsoever of alteration.  In particular, do not accept a photocopy as evidence of ownership.

Be certain that the car is as good as it looks

There’s no quick way to describe all the tricks of the trade relating to how to make what is essentially a clapped-out old banger look like a great buy.  You just need to recognise that it is possible to do so relatively easily and cheaply.
So, walk around the outside and look for dents, scratches and paint touch-ups – you can even kick the tyres if you like but none of that is going to really protect your interests.
To really check the condition of a car you need to be very experienced and preferably a trained professional.  If you are not one, then take someone with you who is.
Or use a service such as the RAC’s motor vehicle inspection service. While there will be some financial outlay, it is better to spend a little and know exactly what you are getting, rather than not doing so and potentially ending up with further expense down the line.
However, here are a few things you might want to look for:
get down underneath and get dirty as you check the underside of the car and the wheel arches.  It’s much harder to hide problems in this area than on the bodywork so check for signs of welding or pieces of metal that are clearly out of shape or cracked.  Be prepared to wipe or otherwise remove strategically positioned grime and muck – it might be hiding cracks and holes you need to see;
look under the bonnet.  Don’t just tweak a few hoses and try to look knowledgeable but instead look for signs of leaking oil stains, indications of corrosion or welding and particularly look to see just how rounded or otherwise worn things like nuts are. It might tell you just how often things have been removed;
have a good look round in the boot and do the same sorts of checks as mentioned above.  Move any carpets or insulation to check for signs of repairs and water penetration;
look really closely at the interior.  Badly worn or fraying car seats, steering wheels and gear knobs might give you some indication as to whether the mileage on the clock actually looks realistic.  Make sure you lift the carpets at the front to check for signs of damp – yes it can be dried out but the smell tends to linger so get your nose down;
above all, take the car for a thorough and comprehensive test drive.  Don’t just tootle around the car park but insist the owner comes with you and that you drive it on a dual carriageway or motorway at speed.  See how it handles and remember to pay attention to things like clutch and gear performance plus just how happy the engine sounds when running. Of course, make sure that your insurance (or the seller’s) provides you with fully comprehensive cover for your test drive.  
On a related subject, when purchasing and insuring your vehicle, make certain you understand what the risks and issues are with what's called GAP Insurance.  This is essentially when you owe the finance company more on the car than it is worth on the marketplace. If that happens, it’ll mean that the insurance pay out in the event of a total loss might be less than the amount you will need to pay to the finance company.  
Do all this at the seller’s home if a private individual or a business premises if a dealership.  Never purchase a vehicle based on meeting-half-way arrangements that involve motorway services and car parks.
If the seller doesn’t like these conditions and your attention to detail, just walk away from the deal.

Have everything ready

Having talked about the risks involved in buying second-hand cars, it might be worth restating that there are very large numbers of excellent vehicles out there just waiting to be purchased.
So, it might make sense to be sure that all your finances and insurance are ready to go before you start trawling the market looking for a suitable vehicle.  There might not be much point in finding the car of your dreams only to then risk losing it because you have done nothing about putting your finances in place ready for the purchase.
At Carfinance247 we have some excellent finance deals available at our fingertips and one that is likely to be very suitable for your unique individual circumstances. Even if you have a poor or less than perfect credit history, we can still help, as we have access to a number of sympathetic lenders and cost-attractive deals.
Of course, it's not necessarily easy to work out just how much you can afford and what the repayments are likely to cost.  Fortunately there are finance calculators available online that might be able to give you some powerful help in doing the mathematics.


You'll be spending a lot of money when purchasing your car and it only makes sense to take some basic precautions when you go about things.
Although the vast majority of sellers are likely to be perfectly honest and reputable individuals or businesses, you do need to be aware that there are some rogues out there.
Following some of the above steps might help you identify them in advance and to say a positive - no thanks!

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