Buying a Used Car: Things to keep an eye out for

If you are in the market for purchasing a new car, buying a used vehicle can have a huge variety of advantages over a brand new model. While there’s the clear financial advantage, you also have the freedom to change your vehicle whenever you feel it necessary – unlike with a new car that usually comes with a contract agreement.

However, the used car market has far more room for error and there’s the potential to lose large amounts of money unless you know what you’re doing. Fortunately the team at Foray are here to help, and here are a few pointers to keep an eye out for to ensure you get the best motor for your money.

The Bodywork

While the exterior might not have the same glistening shine as a new Ford car for sale on the forecourt, it’s worth paying a closer look all around the car to make sure it’s free from any problems. You should also always arrange to see a car in daylight just so even the faintest of problems can be spotted.

One thing certainly to look for are any signs of inconsistent gaps or mismatched colours on the vehicles panels, both of which are tell-tale indications of repair work, the severity of which you may not know. Take a small magnet along with you, as its an easy way to find out if any plastic body filler has been used anywhere on the car.

Check that there isn’t any paint on the handles, window seals or plastic mouldings, particularly as this could indicate that work has been carried out by an external source rather than at a dealership that offers approved Ford servicing.

There shouldn’t be any incidences of rust on the vehicle, especially not around the wheel arches, front bumper and bonnet. If there are any blemishes, inspect them closely as it could point towards more serious damage underneath. 

Rusty Wheel Arch

The Mileage

While the previous owner may be able to mask small dents and other issues with the car, one aspect that cannot be ignored is the mileage. You should always compare the mileage with the age of the vehicle. If the mileage is low then it’s usually a good sign. If it’s high then there’s the chance that the extra miles could have taken their toll on the rest of the vehicle – despite what the car records suggest. Check that the mileage is also in line with the logbook, and if it’s not then an odometer may have been used to manipulate the car. Not only is this practice illegal, it’s also very misleading for the potential customer. Steer clear!

High Mileage

The Engine

The engine is perhaps the most important area not to be overlooked, particularly as there are so many aspects that could go wrong – the majority of which result in huge expense. Here are a few things you will want to bear in mind when it comes to the power source:

  • Are there any unusual noises when the engine is started from cold?
  • Does the warning light stay illuminated after the engine is switched on?
  • Is the clutch making a peculiar noise or does it hold a high biting point?
  • Is there any sludge on the oil filler cap? This could indicate a poor service.
  • Is the oil level right? Too low is often a sign of neglect. 
  • Are there abnormal exhaust emissions?
  • Is the catalytic convertor in good condition?
Oil Dipstick

The Paperwork

Finally there’s the paperwork. When it comes to the paperwork, here are some things you should be certain of before you buy:

  • That the seller is the registered keeper
  • That the Vehicle Registration Document (now called a V5C) is present with an official watermark and shows no signs of tampering
  • The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), engine number and colour match the V5C document

Where do I find the VIN?

The VIN is the most reliable method of checking if a car has been tampered with in any way, but you have to know where you’re looking. One instance of the VIN will be found on the front end of the engine block; just lift up the bonnet and it should be there on a metal plate. There may also be a stamp into the chassis of the vehicle, which can be found underneath a small plastic plate located in the footwell of the driver’s seat. Find two instances of the VIN and ensure they are the same, as this should prove that the car is legitimate and all work has been carried out by approved servicemen.

If everything is in order with the vehicle and you have commited to the purchase, you should have three documents in your posession before driving away: the V5C, a valid MOT Certificate and, ideally, a full service history.

If the owner is unable to provide the V5C document, the car cannot be taxed, which can lead to some costly issues.

If there is a clear gap in the service history, you need to ask the owner to provide an explanation; while it could be completely harmless, finding out will give peace of mind that you are getting a legitimate vehicle.

Car Registration Certificate

Image Credit: Jonathan Rolande, Alan_D, Evan Mitchell, Pete (