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If you are thinking about purchasing a used car here are our top tips writes Geraldine Herbert

1) Set a Budget

Tempting as it is to choose the car first you are always best to set the budget before you go shopping for a car. When setting a budget consider all of your monthly expenses including mortgage or rent, child care costs, etc, and also factor in any debt payments including credit cards or loan repayments.

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car

2) Cash or Finance

If you have some savings accrued during the lockdown you may be considering paying for a used car in cash. One of the main advantages of buying with cash is that you don’t pay any interest on the transaction. However, it is worth remembering that buying in cash may mean that you would be left with little or no savings to cover unforeseen expenses. On the other hand with a loan, you will have to pay interest so you need to work out what works best for you.

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car

3) Pay the Right Price

Do some research to determine if you are being asked to pay a fair price. Search online for cars of the same age, condition, mileage, and those with similar extras. 

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car

4) Consider the Running Costs

What are the insurance implications, work out the average mileage you travel per month, the car’s fuel efficiency and the ever-escalating cost of fuel, age, the mileage will all affect servicing and maintenance costs.

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car

5) Do a History Check

Check the car’s history to see if the vehicle has been involved in an accident or if there is outstanding finance owed on it, many websites offer this service, e.g. motorcheck.ie, cartell.ie.

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car

6) Examine the Car in Daylight

Inspect for dents and marks everywhere and ensure all functions are working, lights, wipers, air conditioning, the radio etc. Check for consistency in paintwork, mismatched panels could suggest that the car has been involved in an accident. Look for obvious signs of age, a worn steering wheel and pedals are a good indicator.

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car

7) Low or High Mileage 

Don’t be too concerned about the mileage if buying an older car, high mileage is a sign of a reliable car so its nothing to worry about on the other hand when mileage is low it could indicate that the car has only been used occasionally or for short journeys neither of which is good for a car. Concentrate more on the condition and servicing of the car.

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car

8) Take it for a Test Drive

Pick a route that will take in the town, open roads, and, if possible, a motorway. If buying privately, make sure in advance that your insurance will cover you for the drive. A dealer should provide cover for test drives. Try every gear, including reverse, and test all the controls, including wipers and lights. Turn the radio and air-conditioning off and open the windows to ensure there are no unusual road noises. You should be able to switch between gears smoothly without any grinding noises. If the clutch is too stiff or weak that could be a sign of trouble. Test the brakes, including the handbrake. 

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car

9) Know your Rights

If you buy privately, while it can save you some money upfront, you won’t have the same legal protection as you would if buying from a dealer. If something goes wrong you should make contact with the seller as soon as possible. If you bought from a dealer you will be protected under law and the car must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality and match its description.

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car

10) Documents

Ask to see all of the relevant documents including the logbook (vehicle registration cert),  NCT certs, and service history. Examine all the details of these carefully for any discrepancies.

10 Things To Look For When Buying A Used Car


About the Author

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen.ie. Geraldine Herbert is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1.

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