If everything seems to add up on paper, make sure you give the car a thorough once over yourself and take it for a test drive.
Arrange a viewing of the car in the daylight, when it’s not raining to give yourself the best chance of spotting if anything’s wrong with it. If you’re buying from a private seller, it’s a good idea to ask to meet and view the car at their house. This way, if anything goes wrong, you have a note of their home address.
Of course, if you aren’t a car expert, which most of us aren’t, it’s worth thinking about getting a mechanic to do an inspection for you. These aren’t the cheapest and can range from around £50 to over £200, but could prove invaluable if the car has a major fault. Again, both the RAC and AA offer these inspections, but you should also be able to find a garage in your local area that does them by searching on Google.
While you’re there, ask to see the seller’s V5C certificate, also known as the logbook, which should show they are the registered keeper of the vehicle. It’s a legal requirement that all car owners have this. Compare the information on the certificate with the car itself, and if any information doesn’t match, for example, the number plate is different, it could be a sign that it’s stolen. If you think this is the case, you should try to leave as soon as possible and contact the police to report it. Another way to check that the car being sold is legitimate is by checking the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the logbook with the one on the car. You can usually find this at the base of the windscreen, inside the driver’s door, or under the bonnet.
If you’re satisfied with the paperwork and have checked the mechanics, taking the car for a test drive is a really useful way of figuring out if it’s in good shape or not, but before you do, you’ll need to make sure you are insured to drive it. Your insurance might cover you, but you’ll need to check that it does before you get behind the wheel. You might also be covered by the seller or dealership’s insurance, but whatever you do, don’t test drive the car without cover, you could end up paying for any damage and may even get points on your licence.