Coffee Break

Buying a used car: what to know

When it comes to buying a car, most people don’t buy new. More people than you realise buy a used car, with more than 2 million transactions taking place on second-hand cars in Q1 2019 alone.

But if you’re looking to buy used cars in NI, there are a few things you should look out for beforehand, which we’ve highlighted below.


The first thing you need to check is the paperwork, which should help you to notice anything untoward. Things to look out for include, is the car being sold from the address stated in the logbook? Do the logbook registration and chassis numbers match the ones on the vehicle? Are there any discrepancies in the service records? And finally, check the sales receipts to prove ownership.

Take Your Car to a Trusted Mechanic

Depending on where you are buying your used car, you may need to get it examined.  If you are purchasing your vehicle from a dealer, the car will be inspected at the showroom; most dealers have certified pre-owned vehicle programs.  However, you will need to get a car inspection for yourself if you are buying from a private party.  You can take the car to an auto repair shop to get a car service.  An auto repair shop will lift the vehicle and inspect the undercarriage for curves, misalignments, and other signs of frame destruction.  If the inspection report shows significant complications with the used car, you can reevaluate the acquisition or ask the seller to fix them.  Also, you can negotiate the price to a lower rate if the problems are minor.

Test drive

This is the most vital step. Not only will it allow you to see if you like the way the car works and whether it’s the right one for you. After all, if it doesn’t feel right, there’s no point investing in it. But, more importantly, you’ll be able to see if the car runs properly. From starting easily, to listening out for any unusual sounds when it comes to the brakes and engine to the competence of the steering and the whether the exhaust is releasing unusual smoke, these are all things to watch out for on the drive.

Thorough inspection

Don’t look at the car in the night, instead, make sure it’s a clear day as the dark can hide a multitude of sins. Check everything to within an inch of its life. This includes every panel and trim and every area on the inside, including the electric windows and air-con. While the odd scuff is expected, you don’t want damage that could cost you in the future.

What to watch for

There are things you should look out for to ensure the car isn’t dodgy. These are:

  • Clocking – this is where the mileage is misrepresented
  • Cloning – this a car with a copied number plate often done to avoid fines
  • Cut-and-shuts – these are cars that are made by welding two or more cars together and can be very dangerous

If any of these becomes obvious, avoid the car altogether.

Ways to pay

If you’re buying from a well-known dealer, then you should be fine. But, if you’re buying the car from a private seller, be careful. You don’t want to be carrying large amounts of cash on you. instead, opt for a money transfer or use a banker’s draft.

Buying a car is a big step, second-hand or not, and with these helpful tips, you should be able to purchase with complete peace of mind from now on.