10 Tips When Purchasing Your Next Vehicle

What to think about before buying a used vehicle

First Response Finance has helped over 130,000 customers finance vehicles ranging between £2,000 and £10,000.

This blog will give you the top 10 things you should consider before signing on the dotted line for your car, van or bike.

1. Consider the whole cost

You need to be aware of all costs involved in buying and running a vehicle, whether it’s a car, van or bike. If your vehicle is purchased on finance you will have your monthly repayments to make alongside your insurance, tax, fuel and general maintenance. Remember you’ll also need regular services and an MOT every year.

Costs depend on the vehicle as an SUV is going to guzzle more fuel than a Ford KA just as a vehicle with 80,000 miles will need more maintenance than one with 15,000 miles. Make sure you consider these carefully including any likely increase.

Calculate Finance

2. Petrol or diesel

Consider if you really need a diesel engine. Diesels are ideal for those regularly driving long distances at high speeds (motorways or A roads). Diesels do not work well as a city car or one that’s used for short distances.

If you do choose a diesel make sure you’re regularly giving it a good run as otherwise the filter will become clogged and will become expensive to fix. Issues with the filter (DPF) is one of the most common issues associated with diesels and it is usually down to a lack of driving.

That’s not to say diesels aren’t a good choice, they are. You just have to make sure it fits with your lifestyle otherwise it could end up disagreeing with your bank balance.

3. Test drive

Take a test drive - tips for buying a vehicle

By far the best way to figure out if you actually like the vehicle, if it suits your needs and if it makes any dodgy noises when you hit 40mph is a test drive.

All dealerships should offer a test drive, although not all of them will advertise it. If the dealer will not allow you to test drive their vehicles, then we suggest going to a dealership that will.

Make sure you use this time to check all of the electronics (windows, stereo, on-board computer etc.); watch out for warning lights; listen to the engine; the ease of gear changes; and any issues with the brakes.

Being able to test drive a car will help you know if the car is right for you. Don’t let the dealer rush you, a 15-minute drive is not unreasonable.

4. Do your research

Do your research - tips for buying a vehicle

Check online price guides and forums so you understand the value of different vehicles. If all else fails, check a couple of dealer websites to get an average price of a vehicle with the same spec and condition.

Knowing the recommended values and ‘going rates’ of two or three types of car, van or bike will help you to avoid being overcharged and could help with negotiating the price.

5. Look carefully and do not view in the rain

Do not view in the rain - tips for buying a vehicle

Darkness and water can hide scratches, dents and other problems. Viewing a vehicle in anything other than daylight may mean you are unable to check the bodywork properly or walk around the whole vehicle.

Check for any mismatching colours as this could suggest that it has previously been in an accident. Other tell-tale signs include smudges of spray paint on door locks, lights or window seals.

6. V5C / log book

Insist on seeing the V5C vehicle registration document (often referred to as the log book). This document is important when you’re financing a vehicle as it enables you to change the registered keeper.

When you purchase a car, van or bike this is the document you will need to send back to the DVLA to register as the new owner.

It is a good idea to make a note of the document number so that you can do further checks on the vehicle history. You can find more information on discrepancies on the AA website.

Check a vehicle with AA

7. Service history and MOT

Vehicles older than 3 years should have paperwork for repairs or parts as well as MOT certificates and records of regular servicing. If you know the vehicle's registration number and V5C document number, you can check the vehicle's MOT status and history (back to 2005) online, using the below link.

Check vehicle MOT history

8. Cam belts

Cambelts should be renewed based on the manufacturer’s specification – this usually relates to a car’s age or its mileage. As a rough guide cambelts should be changed every 50,000-70,000 miles but, depending on the age and make of the vehicle, this could be sooner so make sure you check with the manufacturer.

Ask the dealership when the cambelt was last changed (this should be detailed within the service history) and use the manufacturer’s recommendations to find out how soon the vehicle’s cambelt will need to be changed.

If the cambelt goes it will potentially cause you a lot more issues in the future so be aware of the likelihood of needing to have one changed.

9. Locking wheel nuts

First Response Finance explain locking wheel nutsCheck whether the vehicle you’re looking at has locking wheel nuts or standard wheel nuts. Locking nuts tend to be safer as you need a specific adapter in order to remove the wheel.  If the adapter is missing however, it can become time-consuming and expensive to change your tyre. View image (right) for an example.

10. Handbook and spare keys

Make sure the handbook will be provided with the vehicle. This is a simple document but it can be expensive to replace. It should be your go-to document to see what different areas, buttons or lights been on the vehicle.

Ask how many keys the car will come with as it’s not uncommon for people to need additional keys. If the car only has one key it could cost, you over £100 to get another cut. Remember though, you are buying a second hand car so don’t be surprised if it only has one!

Bonus Tip

This is very important as the vehicle must be right for you; don’t let emotions override practicality when you’re on site at a motor dealership. There are always other vehicles out there, so if this one doesn't feel right in any way, it's time to walk away.

< Back to blog | Next: The UK's Most Reliable Cars >