Buying a used car – what you need to know

Everyone is feeling the financial pinch at the minute, and that means that if you’re looking to buy a new car it’s realistic for most people to choose a second-hand one, whether it be a hatchback, a saloon or an off-roader.

Whilst the thought of buying a new Alfa Romeo 4C may be enticing to you, the reminder that most new cars lose 40% of their value in their first year should be enough to steer you in the direction of a used one – and there are plenty of great second hand Alfa’s for you to choose from.

However, the very nature of getting a used car means that there are a number of checks you should carry out before you finalise any deal.

Buying a used car

Service history

Most cars will have had some work done on them over the years so you should ask to see garage bills, MOT certificates and records of servicing in order to generate an overview of the car’s history. This will help you pick up on any troublesome faults the car has had that may cause you problems in the future.


If a car has done a hefty number of miles in its lifetime, comparative to its age, then its safe to assume it will have had an impact on its structural integrity and longevity. Avoid high mileage motors if you can as they’re more likely to rack up garage bills in the future, though you should be wary if the mileage meter is very low as this could be evidence of ‘clocking’ – the illegal practice of tampering with the meter.


Make sure you examine the body of the car for scratches and dents as these will reduce the value should you want to sell it further down the road. It’s best to inspect a used car in the daytime when there is enough natural light for you to be able to pick up on such problems.

Test drive

You might have already decided in your head which car you want to go for, but until you’re in the driving seat you don’t really know for sure whether it’s the right one for you. Ask for a test drive to ensure you’re comfortable inside the vehicle, that the drive itself is to your liking and to see if there’s enough room in the back for your baby seat or luggage.

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