5 Essential Checks To Make When Buying A Used Car

*Collaborative Post

Used cars are an enduringly popular option for drivers in the UK, particularly if it is their first vehicle. The advantages are undeniable: cheaper to buy and insure, easier to repair, and available to take home straightway.

With UK inflation at a 40-year high of 9%, it is no longer new and younger drivers who are monopolising the used car market. People from all walks of life a swapping the latest models for a previously-owned vehicle in a bid to save money. Used cars have the additional attraction of being more eco-friendly than newly manufactured models, making them a great way for drivers to be more green while waiting for electric cars to become a more affordable and convenient option.

A common concern with buying a used car is that you cannot be sure of vehicle functionality or value – unless you are purchasing the car from a dealership who will conduct maintenance checks prior to the sale. Even then it is best to book an MOT and service immediately after purchase to make sure that your car is running as smoothly as possible, and this is a vital precaution if you are buying a used car privately or online.

Getting a professional car service post-purchase to ensure vehicle performance and safety is all well and good, but how can you be sure of the car’s quality before you shell out your hard-earned money? In addition to requesting evidence of the car’s service history, you should organise an inspection of the vehicle prior to purchase. Not sure what you should be looking for? Here are five easy essential checks that you can make before committing to your used car.


One of the easiest elements to check is the tyres because car tyre damage is visually apparent if you know what to look for. Check carefully for any slashes in the rubber or bubbles and bulges in the sidewall. These a typically a sign of serious damage that could eventually lead to a blowout. You should also check that the tread meets the legal minimum depth of 1.6mm – and is preferably deeper. This can be done using nothing more than a 20p coin.


Minor scratches and dents are relatively simple and cheap to fix and are likely to be part and parcel of buying a used car unless the previous owner was an exceptionally careful driver. While they should not put you off purchasing the vehicle, surface damage to the bodywork does devalue the car and you can use this to negotiate a lower price. You should also check for large gaps between the panels which would suggest that the car has been poorly repaired following a significant crash.  

Under the bonnet

You would be surprised how few people check under the bonnet before buying a used car. In fact, an alarming one in five UK drivers never check their oil level during their ownership of a vehicle. Before your inspection, do some research into what to look for when you check under the bonnet of a car so you will confident that you can find any warning signs. Prioritise testing the levels of the oil, brake, and power steering fluids – low levels indicates poor car maintenance or leaks.  


Don’t be shy – get inside the car and have a good poke around. Test any electrics including windows, lights, and indicators, and look for signs of wear and tear in the upholstery or the clutch, brake, and accelerator pedals. Make sure not to overlook the windscreen – small chips can quickly become cracks which have the potential to be very dangerous and will cause you to fail an MOT inspection.

Mileage vs wear-and-tear

A car with a lot of miles on the clock that has been well looked-after is likely to have a higher value than a used car with low mileage but obvious signs of significant wear and tear. A clutch pedal or brake pads that have been handled heavily are costly to repair and indicate a lack of care for the car, especially if the age of the vehicle does not correlate with the amount of damage. Mileage should always be a secondary consideration when you are evaluating how much the used car is worth.

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