Buying a
Second-Hand Vehicle?

OUR HANDY GUIDE

With the new easing of lockdown restrictions and some returning to work, transport may be on some peoples minds.
"Don't forget to inform your insurance company if your policy doesn't cover the daily commute"

Boris Johnson announced that people need to try and avoid public transport so many people may be thinking of alternatives like using their vehicles. Don't forget to inform your insurance company if your policy doesn't cover the daily commute, while some may be thinking of buying a cheap runaround. If you are thinking of buying secondhand, remember to observe social distancing advice when looking at a potential purchase.

Buying a used car, van, motorcycle, or any other vehicle can be a daunting process, especially if it is your first time. Add to that our current situation with COVID-19 and the things to consider ramp up significantly. Making sure you are prepared and with so many things to consider and take into account, the more information you arm yourself with, the better.

Finding the right vehicle with the specs you want can be hard enough. But then you also have those vehicles with hidden pasts, financial debts, write-offs and more and soon you're navigating a minefield of potential problems.

Getting insurance quotes

Once upon a time, you could get a good idea of how much your car insurance would cost depending on what band your chosen vehicle belonged. However, with so many features available on today's autos, covering safety, security and cosmetics, it is not always possible.

"If you currently have a multi-vehicle insurance policy with us, you could add another vehicle, possibly with no extra to pay. Give our team a ring on 01702 225 400 to find out."

Thanks to modern technology though you can get a quote pretty much at the point of sale. Beware! The same technology could also hamper you if you attempt to put through too many quotes for different vehicles in a short space of time. Some quote systems may think you are a trader and subsequently stop quoting.

Used Car History Check

Before you go to view a car, purchase a used car history check. Vehicle checks aren't expensive and could save you a lot of money in the future. Secondhand vehicle history checks provide vital data on whether a car may have outstanding finance, has been stolen or written-off, in addition to other essential details.

Vehicle checks help you verify that you are purchasing the vehicle you believe you are buying without any nasty surprises. Make sure you arrange your vehicle check and don't rely on an examination provided by the seller.

Service History

A full-service history is a crucial piece of information about a car. A well serviced and looked after automobile is often a good sign of how reliable it may be in the future. Make sure you know the servicing schedule of the car you are checking as every make and model is different.

Every vehicle has set service dates either due to mileage covered or its age, whichever comes first. Some sellers may state a car's low mileage as a reason it didn't require a service which is why there is a gap in the service history; this is not true! A car that hasn't been serviced in line with the manufacturer's guidelines will make any warranty claims invalid.

Not to mention possibly throwing up some expensive repair bills in the future. The service book should be stamped and up to date. Not all vehicles have a service book these days so ensure you have the invoices as services on many vehicles are kept electronically today.

M.O.T.

Ensure the MOT has been issued within at least the last six months, preferably within three months. If not, negotiate this into the deal. If the car doesn't have an MOT, you will not be able to tax or insure it. Compare the MOT dates and vehicle mileage with the service history to check for any discrepancies as this could divulge possible tampering.

V5C - Never buy a car without a V5C

Make sure the V5C is available and check the watermark to ensure it is genuine. The V5C enables you to see who the registered keeper is. The registered keeper may not always be the legal owner of the vehicle, though.

To ensure you are looking at a legitimate vehicle, check the following details of the V5C against your used car history check: When buying from a private seller, make sure you are viewing the vehicle at the location of the registered keeper.

Other Documents/Equipment

Check the car has two working keys (Spare keys can be expensive), a handbook or manual, a spare tyre, tool kit and locking wheel nuts. If the wheels do have locking wheel nuts make sure they can be removed safely. Parts may be expensive to replace, so either ask for them to be supplied before the purchase or negotiate them into the price if not available.

Two spare keys that work

Handbook and manuals

A spare tyre or inflation kit

Tool kit / locking wheel nut key

Things to look out for and things to check

Cosmetic Checks

Never view a vehicle in the rain or poor light such as at night. Rain can hide many imperfections such as small scratches and dents as well as the condition of the paintwork. A great way to check if the car is hiding any possible past accidents check for the following:

  • Misaligned or mismatched coloured body panels.
  • Any excess paint or overspray on the body trims.

The above could indicate repair work has been carried out.

Check the tyre's tread depth, including the spare.

If the tyres treads are below 3mm, even if they're above the legal limit, attempt to negotiate their replacement or on the price as they will need changing soon.

The 20p tread test. Put a 20p coin in the main groove of the tyre. If the outer band isn't visible, then the tyre's tread is above the legal limit. Check the tread depth different spots too as under, or overinflated tyres can have varying tread wear.

  • Cosmetic Checks

    Never view a vehicle in the rain or poor light such as at night. Rain can hide many imperfections such as small scratches and dents as well as the condition of the paintwork. A great way to check if the car is hiding any possible past accidents check for the following:

    • Misaligned or mismatched coloured body panels.
    • Any excess paint or overspray on the body trims.

    The above could indicate repair work has been carried out.

  • Check the tyre's tread depth, including the spare.

    If the tyres treads are below 3mm, even if they're above the legal limit, attempt to negotiate their replacement or on the price as they will need changing soon.

    The 20p tread test. Put a 20p coin in the main groove of the tyre. If the outer band isn't visible, then the tyre's tread is above the legal limit. Check the tread depth different spots too as under, or overinflated tyres can have varying tread wear.

Ensure all lights, electronics, switches and gadgets are operational.

  • Ensure all lights, electronics, switches and gadgets are operational.

Engine Checks

If possible, try not to give the dealer or seller a specific time when you will view the car. Not fixing a set time allows you to start the vehicle from cold. Feel the bonnet to see if it's warm it could be the dealer or seller trying to cover up a problem.

Check all the vehicle fluids.

The automatic transmission and power steering fluid should both be red. If the vehicle is an automatic, ensure the transmission fluid is above the mark. Check the engine oil dipstick for the oil's level and colour. Black is a bad sign in petrol engines but okay in most diesel vehicles apart from some of the very modern HDI engines. Check for any drips, stains or leaks under the car.

If you do not feel competent doing these checks yourself, then get an independent inspector to view the vehicle. An independent inspection will give you peace of mind and also potentially help in the negotiation stage.

  • Engine Checks

    If possible, try not to give the dealer or seller a specific time when you will view the car. Not fixing a set time allows you to start the vehicle from cold. Feel the bonnet to see if it's warm it could be the dealer or seller trying to cover up a problem.
  • Check all the vehicle fluids.

    The automatic transmission and power steering fluid should both be red. If the vehicle is an automatic, ensure the transmission fluid is above the mark. Check the engine oil dipstick for the oil's level and colour. Black is a bad sign in petrol engines but okay in most diesel vehicles apart from some of the very modern HDI engines. Check for any drips, stains or leaks under the car.

    If you do not feel competent doing these checks yourself, then get an independent inspector to view the vehicle. An independent inspection will give you peace of mind and also potentially help in the negotiation stage.

Check the air-conditioning is functioning correctly.

Often a dealer or seller may say it only needs to be re-gassed. Don't take their word for it; there could be a much bigger problem that could prove costly.

Check the interior

Ensure the interior is tidy, clean and free from stains or significant damage.

Damaged upholstery and broken trim are expensive to repair, and the smell of smoke is tough to eradicate.

  • Check the air-conditioning is functioning correctly.

    Often a dealer or seller may say it only needs to be re-gassed. Don't take their word for it; there could be a much bigger problem that could prove costly.
  • Check the interior

    Ensure the interior is tidy, clean and free from stains or significant damage.

    Damaged upholstery and broken trim are expensive to repair, and the smell of smoke is tough to eradicate.

Test Drive

A few things to check for when on a test drive:

  • Test the brakes are working and are not pulling to one side.
  • Does the vehicle stay in a straight line without you having to steer it?
  • Does engine miss or backfire?
  • Are there any loud noises or clunks from the suspension, especially on full steering lock?
  • Are the gear changes smooth and they're not slipping or jumping out of gear?
  • Do all the on-board electrics work?

Once You Are Ready To Purchase

Our broker's have put their collective heads together to provide you with some top tips about your insurance and vehicle modifications.

Invoice

Check the invoice is completed correctly, including being signed and dated. Ensure the vehicle's details such as the VRN, VIN, mileage and engine numbers are accurate.

Have all agreements in writing

Request any work to be carried out, or any extras agreed between you and the seller are listed on the invoice or written and signed document.

V5C is filled in and signed

Like the invoice, double-check the V5C data to make sure that it's genuine and matches up with your purchased vehicle check.

Tax your Vehicle

Due to new laws tax is no longer transferred with the vehicle on completion of a sale, you will need to tax the vehicle before you drive it.

Insure your new car

Like the tax, you will need to make sure that you correctly insure yourself on your new vehicle, you don't want to get fined, or worse have an accident which could be very costly!

Extras

Should the manufacturer's warranty be expired or none provided, it may be worth considering buying a new warranty. A warranty is for your peace of mind and could cover you should you come across any unexpected issues.

Insurance Links Relating To The Article

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Fleet Insurance

Motor fleet insurance covering small to large fleets of 5 vehicles or more. Covers a wide range of vehicles.

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