Buying a used car, is a great way of cutting the cost of driving, as most new cars lose around 40% of their value in the first year. But there are risks in buying a used car. So it is important to take time, rather than rush into a deal, and to buy with the head rather than with the heart.
Clocking is the illegal practice of winding back the speedometer on a high mileage car, and increasing its apparent value, and so, asking price.
These cars are the product of two or more cars, usually written off by insurers, welded together, then illegally given the identity of one of the wrecks. The cosmetic work is often outstanding, and therefore usually very difficult to spot from the outside. Lifting the carpets of the car just behind the front passenger seat or driver, will disclose any abnormal welding.
Check prices and compare similar cars in automotive classified media and publications, so you know as much as you can about the value of related cars and avoid being overcharged.
Websites like Cyprus Used Cars, and model-specific forum sites, can be a useful source of information on common faults and what-to-look-for tips. However, bear in mind that the few who have had a poor experience are likely to be more outspoken than satisfied customers.
Do not view a car in the rain, poor light, or at night. This is essential. You will not be able to check the condition of a car properly, if it is wet (water hides scratches, dents and other problems). Make sure you can see the vehicle dry and clearly and from all angles.
Most cars require some work during the year, so the owners of a car a few years old should have amassed quite a sheaf of garage bills for work or parts as well as previous MOT certificates, and records of regular servicing.
If the car is three years old or more, make sure there has a current MOT certificate. Recorded mileage should increase steadily with age and be consistent with the service record. If it does not, then you will want to hear a good explanation as to why not.
Be wary of anything that seems like a real bargain or has a very low mileage for its age. There are bargains to be had, but in general if a deal looks too good to be true, then it most likely is.
Make sure the vehicle's log book is in the car, as they can be expensive to replace if not.
Look to see how the security system works – check that it does – and find out what keys were provided when the car was new.
Modern car keys can cost £100+ to replace. So if you need more than one key and there's only one available, you'll need to bear that cost in mind.
Coloured 'master' keys provided by some manufacturers to programme new spare keys for the car are even more expensive to replace. There is no legal requirement, but cars are generally sold new with at least one spare key. If there is not a spare now ask why not.
A test drive is your only opportunity to check the car's general mechanical condition and to find out for sure that it meets all your needs:
Misaligned panels or mismatched colours on doors, the bonnet and tailgate can indicate that the car has been repaired after an accident.
Traces of spray paint on door handles, window seals and mouldings can indicate such repairs too.
If the engine bay looks like it has recently been power-washed clean, the owner could be trying to remove evidence of fluid leaks. A check under the bonnet after a lengthy test drive should reveal any problems.
Seats and carpets can always be cleaned, or even replaced, but stains on internal fabric headlinings are impossible to remove completely. If seat covers have been fitted, check underneath them for signs of damage. You can get seats replaced but this can be very expensive, particularly if they contain electric motors or airbags. Do not be pressured into buying. There are always other vehicles out there, so if this one does not feel right in any way, it is probably time to walk away.
Be wary of and do not be swayed by 'sob stories' like change of job, break-up of relationship, moving aboard, new baby on the way and so on.
The bottom line is, that you are buying a car to help you and your family, not anyone else.