A consumer's guide to second-hand car buying

A car is one of life's big purchases, so getting it right is important. Buying a brand new car might be exciting, but it's also a pricey option.

If you've got a budget to stick to, buying second hand could be the perfect option for saving money, as long as you know what pitfalls to look out for.

This used car buying guide comes from miDrive, and is designed to help you get the most out of your money.

Patience is a virtue

Buying a car isn't as simple as walking into your favourite shop and coming out 10 minutes later having made the purchase. You have to be patient when looking for the perfect car, as rushing into a sale could leave you out of pocket. Shop around to get a good idea of what you're after, what sort of price you're looking at and who you'd like to buy from.

You'll need to decide whether you want to buy from a private seller or a used car dealer, as your consumer rights will be different depending on your decision. Whilst private sellers can be a great option if your budget is tight, you'll need to be extra vigilant when handing any cash over. If you buy from a private seller, you are not covered by all parts of the Sale of Goods Act, but the seller must, by law:

  • provide an accurate description of the car
  • and they must not misrepresent the car they're selling. For example, they must disclose if it has been in an accident when questioned.

Don't be afraid to ask questions

Don't worry about asking too many questions, because, if you're going to hand any money over, you need to know about the car's history. If the seller or dealer seems reluctant to answer any of your questions, it's probably best to walk away.

Ask whether the car has ever been in an accident and how many owners it has had. Ask to see the car's service history, the V5C logbook and any MOT certificates. Make sure everything is in order and that the VIN number in the logbook matches the VIN number on the car.

Even if you've got all of the answers from the seller, you should still do a HPI check on any vehicle that you're thinking of buying. For a few extra pounds, you can put the number plate into a website such as HPI check, and it will bring up whether the car has ever been in an accident, has ever been stolen or has any outstanding finance on it.

See it in person

You should always check out the car in person before buying it. Arrange a date to go and look at the car and take it for a test drive. Make sure you view it in good daylight and take someone who knows what to look for under the bonnet with you.

Don't just drive the car around the corner on your test drive. Make sure you get a real feel for the car and that it feels comfortable to drive.


Make sure you're 100% happy before you hand any money over. Budgeting for a new (used) car isn't as tough as you might think it is, and - as long as you've done your research - you'll be on the road in your new set of wheels in no time!

miDrive.com specialise in the learner driver industry, and have written these money saving tips to help all drivers get on the road.

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