What to Check When Buying a Second-Hand Car


Buying a second-hand car can be stressful; there are many things you need to check before you drive away. The vehicle could have been in an accident, there could be unpaid debt on the car, or there might be engine issues that require repair. These are just some of the problems you might encounter if you don’t thoroughly check the car you buy before paying and driving away. This article will help you understand more about what to check for when buying a used car.

Car service history

One of the first things to check is the vehicle service history; you ideally want to see there have been regular services at the main dealer. The service history will show what has been changed on the car and the dates of these alterations. If the car history is not available, this might be a cause for concern, the service book could have been lost, or the previous owner may have failed to take the vehicle for regular services. You should ask the dealership or private seller for information on what has been done on the car if no car service history is available.

MOT history

Before buying the car, you should check there have been no severe MOT failures, any previous MOT issues have been fixed, and the vehicle has successfully passed a recent MOT. Ideally, you should buy a car that’s passed an MOT in the last few months and avoid cars that are due to have an MOT. You can check the MOT status and history of any vehicle online; you just need to have the registration number.

Car Mileage

The mileage of a vehicle can indicate its condition; the more miles a car has driven, the more issues you are likely to have. Car parts will only last for a certain amount of miles; after this, they need to be replaced. Major parts within the vehicle's engine could be costly to replace if the car has driven a significant amount of miles. When looking at cars and comparing several different listings, you should always opt to buy the vehicle with fewer miles on the clock. Some cars can have very high mileage but still be in great working condition; make sure that the car service history is complete and up to date in vehicles with high mileage. 


When viewing second-hand cars for sale online, it is always a good idea to go and see the car in person before committing to buying. Online listings can hide bodywork issues such as minor dents, scratches or rust. A dent or ding could indicate that the vehicle has been in a collision; this is something to be wary about when purchasing a used car. The car should match the seller's description; if you find additional issues not listed, you can use them as a negotiation point.


When looking at a used car, you should test the tyre tread depth and look out for any cuts or bulges in the tyres. A tread depth tester can be purchased to check the depth is within the legal limit; they’re cheap to buy and handy when you own a vehicle. Replacing a full set of tires can be expensive and is something that you ideally will want the garage or seller to do before you purchase the car. 

Engine noises

When buying any used car, you should take it for a test drive to check you’re happy with the way it drives and that everything is working well. The engine should be started from cold; listen out for any strange noises, knocks or bumps within the engine. When out on the road, try driving at different speeds and go through every gear in the gearbox; this will help you identify if the car is running smoothly or if there might be engine issues. 


Another critical area to check when test driving a vehicle is the brakes. If it is safe, you should do a hard stop using the brakes. Look out for any travel after you brake; this may signify that the brake pads or discs need to be changed. You can also check the last time the brakes were serviced in the service history.



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onlinepublicationsCurrently working in the Online Media industry, Laura has worked hard to create attention-grabbing publications and to people of all backgrounds and ages. She currently is situated in Hong Kong.
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