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What to look out for when buying a used car

The used car market in the UK remains a strong one as we look to 2022. Indeed, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), used car transactions in the UK went up by 108.6% in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the situation 12 months earlier. Granted, that was largely because of the impact of last year’s lockdown – but the 2,167,504 vehicles that changed hands during Q2 2021 also represented a 6.6% rise on 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

In short, used cars are selling briskly in the UK as the country’s stop-start recovery from the pandemic continues. And if there’s something else that has changed about the process of buying a used car in recent years, it is the sheer ease with which it can be done.

Back in more distant days, the vehicles that we would buy on the used market were often less reliable than they are today. Furthermore, it is now more straightforward than it has ever been to look up important records about a vehicle, such as its MOT history.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you can nowadays take an utterly lackadaisical approach to the purchase of a used car. There are still potential risks and nasty surprises out there. And in any case, unless you’re trying to buy a rare classic or exclusive hypercar, you shouldn’t usually feel the need to quickly commit to buying a particular used vehicle that you have any niggling doubts about.

So, whether you’re interested in purchasing your next car privately, at an auction, online, or even from our extensive selection of used cars for sale in Southend here at Reynolds Motor Group, what are some of the things you should be especially keeping your eyes peeled for?

What should you be keeping an eye out for when you check the car?

Physically inspecting the used vehicle you are considering buying can be awkward if you don’t know what you are even supposed to be looking for. You don’t want to be that person who simply glances over the car and says, “it looks alright.”

So, be sure to pay particular attention to the below aspects:

  • The car’s tyres. The biggest detail to remember here is that the tread on a car’s tyres is legally required to be a minimum of 1.6mm. It’s (famously!) possible to check this with a 20p coin, and if it is less than 3mm, you should be accounting for the cost of replacing the tyres shortly.
  • The bodywork. As you might imagine, it’s pretty important to do this in good lighting conditions, ideally during the daytime, so that you don’t miss anything. Minor dents and scratches aren’t too much to fret about, as they can be easily fixed, but they do give you a reason to haggle on the price. Also be alert to signs of kerb damage on the wheels.
  • The glass. It’s crucial to be vigilant to any chips in the windscreen. It may not seem a big deal when you first see one, but it could easily turn into a crack that would necessitate the replacement of the entire windscreen.
  • The electrics. Don’t forget to play around with those vital electrical functions, including testing the air conditioning, winding the windows up and down, and turning the radio on and off. Again, it might not be an overly arduous task to have any faults addressed, but if you do spot anything, this could give you even more scope to negotiate the asking price.
  • The fluid levels. This is another ‘internal’ inspection that any prospective buyer of a used car should undertake. It’s a simple case of opening the bonnet and checking the vehicle’s levels of oil, brake and power steering fluid. Low levels of any of these could indicate that the car hasn’t been as well-maintained as it perhaps should have been.

The above isn’t an exhaustive list of all the things you should be alert to when you are scrutinising the condition and suitability of a given used car. And of course, you shouldn’t be afraid to check the crucial documents – such as the V5C, also known as the log book – and to ask to test drive the car.

As we touched on above, there will almost certainly be plenty of alternative options on the market if you aren’t 100% satisfied by a particular car. So, don’t allow the seller to fob you off – check as many things as you need to check in order to be sure of what you will be buying.

Perform all of these important checks and more, and you will be able to purchase with the greatest possible confidence that you have acquired the ideal set of wheels for your needs.