Assess a Vehicle

Buying from a dealer

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Before you start make sure you have all the paperwork for the vehicle.

You need to answer all 10 questions which should take around 1 minute. Please note that selecting 'I don't know' will have a negative effect on your results, so try to gather all the information if you can.

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V5C (Logbook)

Don't buy a car without one of these and make sure it's genuine by looking for the watermark. The V5C tells you how many owners the car has had and who it's registered to, but that person isn't necessarily the legal owner of the car.

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How long has seller owned car?

Most people own a car for between 3 and 5 years, so if the seller has only had the vehicle for less than 12 months you should try to find out why that is, it could be a sign that the car has expensive problems

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Current MoT

A long MOT (more than 6 months) is good news for you, as it means the vehicle has recently passed a strict inspection and is considered roadworthy. If a car isn't MOT’d it cannot be taxed – and neither will it be insured

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Previous MoT

Records of the previous MOTs can be useful as the mileage is recorded each time the car is MOT’d, you can use these records to check that there are no irregularities in the mileage history of the car.

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Service history

A full service history is proof of regular servicing and a good indicator that the vehicle has been well maintained . You can also ensure the mileage goes up in the right stages. If there's no service history, you've got no evidence that the car has been maintained and it may develop costly problems in the future.

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Spare key(s)

There should be at least a master and probably a spare as well. Lose the only key and you may have to have everything reprogrammed – which can cost hundreds of pounds. No spare key could also be a sign that the vehicle is stolen.

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HPI check

Checking a car with HPI is a vital step in the purchase process. The HPI Check™ will flag up whether the car is an insurance write­off, has been stolen, has outstanding finance on it, or if the mileage has been clocked.

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Pre-sale checks

It’s much better for you if the dealer has serviced the car and given it a thorough inspection prior to selling, this offers you the best protection for faults developing soon after purchase.

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A good used car dealer or trader will offer a comprehensive warranty for at least 3 if not 6 or 12 months to protect you from mechanical defects which might develop in the future. These warranties can be offered directly by the trader or by a trusted provider such as the AA.

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The test drive

You should never buy any car without taking it for a test drive first, for which you'll need to be insured. The test drive will let you feel how the car is and listen for any unusual noises, you will also get to test the brakes, steering and suspension.

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Your contract

The stakes are high when buying a used car so you need to protect yourself as much as possible. One way of doing this is by asking the seller to sign a contract.

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