Used Car Shopping Hell

Used car shopping can be hell. Here are our Top Ten Tips when shopping for a Used Car...

Unfortunately, we meet people every day who have purchased used cars only to discover something wrong with the car AFTER parting with their hard-earned cash.
You never want to be in a situation of trying to get a refund on one of the biggest purchases of your life. So the top piece of advice is to ALWAYS perform an online Car History Check with a provider such as BEFORE you make the purchase.
However, there are a lot of common sense checks you can make that won’t cost you a penny and could save you a lot of grief and heartache. We’ve compiled a list of top ten tips to follow when buying a used car…

1) Don’t let your emotions take over

Purchasing a vehicle is usually an emotionally charged experience. People tend to forget all about the hard questions they should be asking if they let their emotions take over and fall in love with the car before buying it. The emotional part of the brain dominates and the logical brain becomes disconnected. Sometimes the fear of somehow losing out can also drive people to make decisions too hastily. Whilst emotion and the feeling you get when you sit in your new car will always be an influence it’s very important to keep your emotions under control and let common sense prevail.

2) Do lots of research and set your budget in advance

Research the market via the online classified sites and check out all the options. Decide on one desired make and model rather than spreading your net too wide and make sure you know the market for this particular car. Decide whether you want the extra protection of purchasing from a Dealer or the value that can be had from buying Privately. Set your budget and stick to it. Remember you can always go back and start again if you are not having any success.

3) Prepare a list of questions to ask the seller

This will help ensure you are not making a purely “emotional” purchase. Write down a list of questions before viewing the car and take time to go through all of them with the seller. It’s a large purchase so you should not feel awkward about wanting to know all the detail. If the seller is being evasive or acts impatient this is normally a sign that things are not right with the vehicle, so walk away.

4) Bring someone with you for support

It always helps to have a second opinion and preferably someone who knows a little about cars. Not everyone can bring along their friendly neighbourhood mechanic but many of us will be able to bring someone who knows a little more about cars than we do. Bring someone who will act as a buffer and will give you that wake-up call if your emotions take over. It will allow you divide and conquer especially if the seller is engaging one of you in conversation or sales patter. Having a second person in attendance allows the other to get on with a thorough inspection of the car and its documentation whilst all the chat is happening.

5) Never view a car when its dark or in the rain

It may seem obvious but it’s worth reiterating that you should never view a car after dark unless you are in a very well-lit area. But the best advice is just to avoid night time viewings. Likewise never do a viewing when it’s raining simply because the wet conditions will mask any subtle damage, repairs or wear and tear that might otherwise stand out.

6) Don’t arrange to meet in a carpark

It’s a big mistake to meet the seller in a carpark. Many people get caught out like this. They fall in love with the car right there, they hand over cash and then when something goes wrong later they usually have no receipt and no way to trace the seller. If the seller can’t meet at their home or work place, ask yourself why. Always verify the identity of the seller. Make sure their identity matches the name and address on the logbook (vehicle licensing certificate).

7) Avoid cash transactions and get a receipt signed by the seller

If something goes wrong after your purchase you may need to prove that you paid someone for the vehicle. Paying in cash without a receipt leaves no paper trail and will not help. If you must pay the seller in cash, ensure you verify their identity and get them to sign a receipt for the cash. It also helps to have a declaration on the receipt from the seller regarding the right to pass title of the vehicle, warranted mileage, damage etc.

8) Perform a thorough physical check on the car and test drive

Again it sounds really obvious but it’s very important to take the car for a test drive listening for any rattles or noises. Test the clutch and gear lever action is smooth without any roughness. Make sure the brakes don’t feel spongy. Make sure all the instrumentation is working correctly and test the electrics, aircon, radio, lights and signal lights etc. Give the vehicle a thorough once over in good light around the interior, engine compartment and boot.
• Check the interior for: wear and tear on the carpet mats, steering wheel, gear leaver and door handles.
• Check outside for: panels that don’t line up, overspray around the engine block, in the boot or on the rubber seals. Check that the headlamps are the same make, check that all four tyres are the same brand and size, check the spare in the boot. Check all the fluid levels and balances and check the lights and warning signals etc.

9) Check the official vehicle documentation

One of the most important things to ask for is the service book. Ideally there should be a fully stamped service history showing where the service was carried out, the date of service and the mileage at the time of service.
Also ask for the current and any previous NCT certificates. NCT certs now also show the mileage reading taken at the time of the test.
Finally, you will need to inspect the owner logbook or vehicle licensing certificate (VLC). Verify that the identity of the seller matches the owner named on the logbook. Also verify that the VIN printed on the logbook matches the physical VIN on the car.

10) Perform a History Check online

Before you part with your money get an online car history check using or other similar websites. A check can be purchased for around €20. You will get a report on screen instantly showing you the history of the car. The information contained in the report may also prompt some questions to be asked. Items checked on the report are mileage, previous write-offs, finance and whether the car has been imported from the UK. It will also show other important information such as the NCT history, owners history and dates of sale, taxation history, warranty info etc.