You Need to Check These Things Before You Buy a Used Car

By Jamie Hill - 15 April 2020


Few purchases in life are as major as that of a new car. There are several means of lowering this cost, including finance (you can find a car finance calculator on a lender’s website). But you can also help to manage the cost by venturing to the used market.

To stand the best chance of success, you’ll need to take the right approach. Without due care, you could be left with a purchase you later regret. But with a little bit of foresight and diligence, you’ll be able to sift through those duds, and the vehicle you eventually settle on may do the job nicely.

Among the most important stages of your journey should be your physical inspection of the vehicle. This is a must: a picture presented over the internet is not proof of the car’s condition. So, what exactly should you be checking? Let’s take a look.


Giving the tyres a kick is a bit of a tradition among prudent buyers – it’ll give you an idea of whether they’re adequately inflated. But you should also take a closer look at the tread depth. If it’s anywhere near the legal minimum of 1.6mm, then you should bear in mind that they will shortly need to be replaced.

Also, you’ll need the peace of mind that comes with knowing there’s a spare wheel and a jack to install it. If the vehicle doesn’t come with one, then you’ll need to make this purchase yourself if you want peace of mind.


Your prospective purchase will need supplies of several distinct fluids in order to operate. These include oil, brake, power steering, and windscreen-wiper fluid. Low levels of any of them might indicate that the car’s general maintenance has been neglected – but it’ll also mean you need to replace them at your own cost. While you’re there, check the oil cap for a white, creamy substance, which results when engine coolant mixes with oil. This is a sign of a failed gasket.


A modern car relies on a myriad of electronic gadgets. While they’re not all essential to the car’s operation, they’ll prove annoying and costly to fix. Check everything – from the radio to the rear windscreen wipers to the heated seats to the Bluetooth system.

Wear and Tear

Since you’re buying second-hand, a certain level of wear-and-tear is to be expected. But if an apparently modern car is looking particularly rough around the edges, then that might suggest that it’s been mistreated. Don’t look at the mileage alone as an indicator of condition: be sure to inspect the car from both the inside and the outside.

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