Buying a car is an exciting time, and opting for a used vehicle can be a great way to find a quality car at a more affordable price. However, it’s important to make sure you’re making a wise investment and not inheriting someone else’s problems. To help you with this, car expert Dan Meeghan, Carly’s UK Country Manager, has shared five crucial tips that buyers should follow before making any purchases.

  1. Document Verification: Before getting caught up in the excitement of test drives and shiny exteriors, start by verifying the car’s documentation. First, check the V5 registration certificate (Log Book), as well as the Current and Previous MOT certificates. Make sure that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) matches the documents and the car itself. In addition, it’s important to look for comprehensive service records that provide insight into the vehicle’s maintenance history. Keep in mind that on some modern cars, these records may be digital. If that’s the case, ensure there is a recent printout available, as the local Franchised retailer may not be able to provide this information if you’re not yet the owner. Also, double-check that the mileage recorded on services aligns with the MOT tests conducted each year. This can be an easy way to identify any potential mileage discrepancy.


  1. Diagnostic Scans: In today’s technology-driven world, modern cars are equipped with sophisticated computer systems that can provide valuable diagnostic information. To identify any underlying issues with the vehicle’s systems that can’t be spotted with the naked eye, utilize an OBD2 scanner. Consider using consumer-grade solutions like Carly, which offer user-friendly interfaces for manufacturer level diagnostics and maintenance tasks. These tasks include airbag deployment indicating previous unrecorded accidents and mileage verification to prevent odometer tampering.

  1. Exterior Examination: A careful inspection of the car’s exterior can reveal a lot about its overall condition and how it has been maintained. It is important to consider the general wear on the paint. A car that has had a hard life will generally look dull and faded with excessive stone chips. Additionally, it is important to look for any signs of damage, repainting, or inconsistencies in panel alignment. These could indicate previous accidents. A good indicator of previous paintwork is overspray, where lacquer or paint blows onto other panels and leaves a rough surface. You can easily detect this by running your fingers along the panels. Checking the condition of rubber weather seals, lights, windshield, and tire treads is also crucial to assess the car’s roadworthiness and how it has been driven. Pay attention to any replaced parts, as they can indicate accident damage. For example, does one headlight or indicator look newer than the other? Another thing to look out for is the condition of the bolts on the inner edge of the wings. If they appear to have been removed with damage to the bolt heads, it may suggest previous repairs. Remember, a thorough exterior examination can provide valuable insights into the car’s history and potential issues.


  1. Interior Inspection: When inspecting the interior of the car, it is important to be thorough. This is where you will be spending most of your time, so it’s crucial to carefully examine everything. Look for any signs of wear and tear, especially on the steering wheel and pedals. These can indicate potential mileage tampering. If you notice that the driver’s seat is excessively worn on the edge, while the pedals and steering wheel are in good condition, it often suggests that the car has been used for lots of short journeys. This can be harmful to the engine if it doesn’t reach running temperature and is constantly run cold. In such cases, extra servicing should have been done to mitigate this issue. Don’t forget to lift the carpets and check for any moisture or water damage. Flood-damaged cars may have hidden problems, but even something as simple as a blocked roof drain can cause significant damage. Lastly, test all interior gadgets and electronics to ensure they are in working order.


  1. Mechanical Assessment: Conducting a basic mechanical assessment or bringing along a trusted mechanic can be very beneficial. Look out for visible signs of mechanical issues, such as damaged hoses, leaks, or worn-out parts in the engine bay. During a test drive, test the car’s performance and pay attention to how it handles different road conditions. Listen for any unusual noises or vibrations. Some specific things to look out for are: unusual knocking from the suspension over bumps (indicating worn suspension bushes), pulling to one side under braking (suggesting brake balance or wheel alignment issues), brake pedal vibration when braking (indicating warped brake discs and pads that need replacement), and a rattle that appears when the clutch is depressed while the car idles (pointing to a need for replacement of the dual mass flywheel and clutch).Additionally, pressing down hard on each corner of the car should result in it returning to its original position in one controlled movement. If it bounces, it means a shock absorber will need replacing. These are just a few examples of easily identifiable parts that wear out over time. Keep in mind that they can be costly to replace, so it’s important to consider this when negotiating the price to avoid future disappointment.

By following these five steps, you can make a more informed decision when purchasing a used car. This will ensure that you buy a reliable vehicle that meets your needs and provides peace of mind on the road.

Tips and advice by Dan Meeghan, Car Expert at Carly, the OBD scanner that acts as your personal mechanic.