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Are you buying a used car? With the free checklist, you'll learn what you need to ask yourself and online tools which you can use to buy with confidence.
5 Mins

Checklist on Buying a Used Car

Lewis Findley
Lewis Findley

Used Car Checklist

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported that, in 2018, 7.9m used cars were sold in the UK. 

However, buying a used car can be difficult. They can be as much as the third biggest household purchase and this creates an emphasis on the need to buy with confidence.

However, what do you look out for when you're buying a used car? How can you check the history of a car? What do you do when you're buying a car from auction?

In this guide, we created a definitive checklist to ensure you can safely buy a car!

Buying a used car

As you read earlier, buying a used car can be a stressful experience. However, there are many places that you can go to buy a car.

However, this is part of the problem. There are countless outlets you can buy a car from which include dealers, private, garage, traders, online, auctions and more!

There are pros and cons to buying cars from all of these channels but we created this guide which explains car auctions.

Before you start searching for a car it's imperative to establish one thing, a budget!

How much should I spend on a car?

It's important to create a budget so you don't overspend on a vehicle.

There are tools you can use to understand how much you'll need to budget for a car. The Money Advice Service have a car cost calculator which helps you get a breakdown of the costs associated with a car like car tax, MPG and more.

As well as creating a budget, it's important that you stick to it.

Once you have a budget, you'll be able to understand what cars you can buy and from there, you can start to narrow the list with parameters such as fuel type, seats, colour, make, model and more.

Once you find cars which match what you're looking for, it's imperative to get a clear understanding of its condition.

The Vehicle's Description

The vehicle’s description will be one of your greatest assets for judging the suitability of the vehicle you’re thinking about.

It’s essential that the description is thoroughly read and then compared against the visual images of the vehicle. The aim here is to ensure that you are satisfied with what you have read and what you see.

If there are any discrepancies or any issues, it's necessary to raise them.

At William George, we actively review descriptions to ensure they match with the images, and this helps to reassure our bidders that the lot is genuine.

We also provide our vendors with a description template to help them provide online bidders with the information they are looking for.

DVLA Vehicle Check

The GOV.UK website allows you to view significant information about a car thanks to it being linked to the DVLA.

With this information, you'll be able to learn vital details about the car and help you bid with confidence.

All you need is a license plate number which you can find in our vehicle descriptions. Example of the information you can find are:

  • Tax – when the tax is due.
  • MOT – when the MOT expires.
  • Date of Registration – when the vehicle was registered.

Try it for yourself with this link: Check if a vehicle is taxed and has an MOT.

MOT History Check Online

A used car means it has a history and to make an informed decision, it's important to understand it.

A vehicle's MOT history will inform you of any issues the car has had since it was registered and also the mileage on the engine. 

There are services which help you to find that information. The GOV.UK website has a free service which allows you to view the MOT history of a car and all you need is the license plate number.

You can access this service with this link: Check MOT history.

HPI Check

A HPI check can give you a fantastic insight into a used car such as outstanding finance, if it has been written off, clocked, stolen and more.

For a fee, you can obtain this information through the HPI check online tool.

It's beneficial to gain an understanding of a vehicle's history as you'll be able to proceed with less doubts in your mind.

Once you're in a position to view the vehicle, what exactly are you looking for?

Inspecting a used car

The greatest benefit of inspecting a vehicle is that you will be able to get up close to the lot and ask any questions.

Here are some tips on what to inspect:

  1. Engine - does it start? If so, how's the sound? Also, what are the oil levels? What colour is the exhaust smoke? What's the condition of the head gasket?
  2. Clutch and gearbox - is the clutch stiff? Loose? Does it change gear smoothly? What's the biting point?
  3. Bodywork - are there signs of repair? What does the underneath look like? Are there signs of damage? Do the doors open properly? 
  4. Wheels and tyres - What is the tread depth? is there sidewall damage? What's the condition? Don't forget, a tread depth under 1.6mm is illegal in the UK.
  5. Interior - Does the interior match the age of the car? Are there warning lights? Do the electronics work? remember, on average 10k miles are driven annually.
  6. Steering Wheel - Does it rotate fully? Is it loose? Does it make any sounds when going from lock to lock?
  7. Windows and lights - Do the car's lights work? Do they turn on? Do the windows wind down manually and electronically?
  8. Bonnet - Does it easily open? Are there any visual concerns? Does anything look out of place? moved?

Auction houses such as William George allow our bidders to view lots up to 24 hours before the end of an auction. This provides ample time for our bidders to see the lot in question.

Final Words

Before you buy a used car, it's important that you use this checklist.

This information can help you to buy with confidence.

A used car can be a massive purchase which needs the right research and online auctions could be the way forward.

At William George, we provide online car auctions where you can bid on an array of vehicles such as commercial, performance, prestige, classic, hatchbacks, saloons and more!