Hints and tips for buying a second hand car

Autumn is one of the peak seasons for the second hand car market.

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Written by Zach Brettell 

Drivers buying a brand new car often wait for the release of new registration plates on 1 September (this year’s ‘67’ plates) or 1 March (‘18’ plates will arrive next year).

That means, each year, tens of thousands of cars are sold onto the second hand market in September and March, giving buyers plenty of choice.

How to approach buying a used car

Even seasoned motorists can find the process of buying a second hand car a little daunting, so here’s a few reminders of the main things to look out for…

  • Make sure there is no outstanding finance on the car. Use Google to find companies that specialise in running credit history checks to ensure there’s no debt attaching to the car. If the vehicle was used as security on a loan, the lender has the legal right to repossess the car if the original borrower defaults, even after you’ve bought it.
  • Consider having the car checked over by a professional mechanic. Organisations such as the AA and RAC provide such a service.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle, whether you’re buying from a dealer or privately. If you’re part-exchanging your current car, get an idea of the market price before you approach the dealer, so you know whether you’re getting a fair offer.
  • If you’re paying cash, ask a friend to go with you, and don’t hand the money over until you’re 100% happy with the vehicle and you’re in possession of the key. Ideally, don’t pay cash!
  • Ask for the paperwork relating to the service history of the car along with the current MOT certificate. If these aren’t forthcoming, think very carefully before proceeding.
  • You’ll also need to get the part of the logbook known as the V5C/2. The previous owner should tell the DVLA they’ve sold you the car, and you should get a new logbook within six weeks. If it doesn’t arrive you can register it yourself on the DVLA website (via )

REMEMBER! You must pay vehicle excise duty (VED) and insure the car before you drive it away.

Until 2014, VED was bought for a six or 12-month period that could be transferred with the car when sold. Indeed, having a few months’ tax to run on the vehicle was often a significant selling point.

Now, however, VED transfers aren’t possible, so you have to pay it before taking ownership. And you can only buy full months, so if you buy on the twelfth of the month, you have to pay the full whack.

And the news is no better for sellers, by the way. You can get refunds for the unused part of the six or 12 months VED you’ve still got to run - but only for full months. If the VED runs out in three-and-a-half months, you’ll only get three months back.

If that looks like the DVLA is having its cake and eating it, well… It’s hard to come to any other conclusion, since separate VED payments on the same car will inevitably overlap on numerous occasions.

Sort out your insurance

As with VED, you’ll need to insure your new car before you drive it. The only exception is if the car is not going to be driven, in which case you’ll need to get a Statutory off-road notification (SORN) from DVLA, again before taking ownership.

With the insurance, you can either transfer an existing policy to a new car, or you can cancel it and start afresh with a new policy.

If you think transferring might be the better option, tell your insurer well in advance and be prepared for a change in premium (dependant on the new model of car you’re getting) and an admin fee, which might run to £50.

Don’t risk not telling them, because you won’t be covered in the new vehicle under your old policy.could unearth a cheaper deal, although you’ll lose a year’s no claims discount if you cancel an existing policy part way through the term.If you haven’t changed insurer for a number of years, that could still work out cheaper than sticking with your existing provider.

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