Below is a general RAC checklist: -

  • Set a budget and stick to it.

  • Make a list of questions to ask before going to buy the car – then record the answers and ask the seller to sign and date the document.

  • Always check the car’s registration document (V5) to validate ownership and accuracy of the vehicles age and mileage. Does the condition of the car reflect its stated age and mileage?

  • Check that the engine/chassis numbers match the documentation.

  • Test drive the car – but ensure that the appropriate insurance is obtained.

  • Don’t rely on the MOT as evidence of a car’s condition.

  • Check beneath the bonnet and boot for oil leaks, welds untidy seams or other evidence of accident repairs. Does the colour and texture of the paintwork match all over and are the lights and electrics in working order?

  • Check for rust and paint bubbles particularly on the sills, wheel arches, seams, door bottoms and suspension mountings.

  • The interior of a car can tell you a lot. A badly worn interior can indicate high mileage. Buy a vehicle status chech to see whether it’s been stolen, has been written off or has outstanding finance.


Other Checks: -

  • Mileage correction isn’t unheard of and it is wise to fully check all the areas of a cars wear and tear. Check the drivers seat bolster, steering wheel and gear knob for wear and relate to the mileage of the car.  Check the seat belts, pedals and all the electrics for sluggish motors. If you are buying a classic it is worth doing a Google search on the specific car to find out what the expensive fixes are and the usual trouble spots.

  • Usual high expenses are engine problems – check cam belts/timing chains. Check for unusual noises from the clutch, gearbox, suspension knocking, brakes and any other areas you can listen out for. Check the condition of the wheels, serious curbing could have effected the tracking which can be fairly costly to put right. Check for what sort of parts have been used by looking at receipts or if you have a keen eye, you may be able to spot if exhausts, suspension or tyres are manufacturer recommended. Look for odd tyres around the car, this can be a sign of neglect.

  • Check that if the car has previously been purchased on finance that it has been paid off. I have heard of instances where the car registration has been the old recorded detail with a certain finance company and the new buyer has had to pay off the balance. Previous MOT can verify the mileage as well as the service documents. An HPI check is worthwhile to see if the car has had any damage and the extent of the impacts.

  • It is worth looking at different car sales magazines and websites to check what sort of money the car in question goes for. Don’t pay over the odds and be sceptical of paying to far under, some say “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”.