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Car Buying Checklist

We don’t blame you if you’re super hyped about buying your next car, and your excitement level is already at 11. Whether you’re young or old, it’s always a special feeling when you get the keys to a new whip and can smell the aromas of a brand new set of wheels. 

But before you get carried away and explode with excitement, it’s worth taking a step back and making sure you’re buying a good car that will serve you well. And to help you feel even more confident about your potential new vehicle, we’ve put this car buying checklist together so you can cover all your bases. 

Making sure the paperwork is all in place

There’s a lot of paperwork involved with buying a new car, and you want to ensure that all the correct documents are present. Before making the purchase, make sure that you have all the following information to hand:

  • V5C registration document. Without it, you won’t be able to tax the car
  • The registered seller, who will be noted in the V5C
  • Number plate, VIN (vehicle identification number), engine number and colour match should align with the V5C
  • VIN on the glass or lights of the car should match the VIN plate and V5C
  • Current MOT. Does the car have one (it will need one if it’s more than three years old)? You should check the MOT history of the vehicle before buying. 
  • Service history. Does it come with full-service history? 
  • Does the car come with the driver's handbook

If you’re buying from a dealership, then most of the above should be mandatory. Even so, you should still double-check, and if you’re buying from a private seller, then it really is important for you to ensure all the information matches up. 

Checking the mileage

You want to make sure the mileage on the dashboard matches with the actual amount of miles the car has driven. Things to check include:

  • Consistency. Does the mileage, age and appearance of the car look consistent?
  • Are they any signs of work screws or an indication that the instruments on the car have been tampered with? 
  • What does the recorded mileage in the service book say? Does it match with the dashboard

Checking the MOT status and its history with provide you with the actual mileage performed by the car. Again, mileage is less of an issue if you’re buying from a dealership, but it’s still something you should always double-check before buying the car. 

Examining the car

Checking the car itself is important, as you don’t want to miss anything before you buy it. Therefore, you should perform a thorough inspection, noting or highlighting anything that doesn’t quite sit right with you. 

  • Look out for rust on bodywork, especially on the wings and sills. Check under the wheel arches and behind the bonnet too.  
  • Is there any oil leaking from the engine? Look at the bonnet after a test drive (more on that in a bit) to see if there are any problems with leaks. It’s also worth looking to see if there isn’t any oil or if it’s dirty, as this will indicate that the car hasn’t been driven for a while
  • Rust may have been collected in the reservoir due to too much water. Therefore, you should check to see if there are any signs of rust on the car
  • Is there any smoke coming from the car when you test drive it? Blue or black smoke indicates possible problems with the engine, fuel injectors or ignition 
  • Stiff gears and high revs are an indication that the clutch could be worn
  • How are the tyres? Is there any uneven wear on tyres? Tread less than 1.6mm is illegal, so you should make sure the tyres meet requirements
  • Push down on the corners of the car and let go to check the suspension. If it’s working, the car will bounce back to its original position. 
  • Ask how many keys come with the car, as it should have two. Keys can cost hundreds of pounds if they need replacing

There's nothing more frustrating than buying a new car, only to find out that it's got problems afterwards. Therefore, you should always do your due diligence and give the car a thorough inspection. 

Going on a test drive

You should aim to test drive the car before making a purchase decision. When on the test drive, look out for the following factors:

  • Do any warning signs pop up on the car when you’re driving it? 
  • Keep an eye on the temperature gauge to see if it gets halfway up fairly quickly
  • Are the breaks effective, and does everything feel smooth when you’re breaking?
  • Does the handbrake feel effective? 
  • Does the steering veer to one side? 
  • How does the engine sound? Are there any abnormal noises?
  • Is the oil level right? It shouldn’t be too low or too high
  • Are there any signs of damage to the car? This might include repainting, filler or bubbles in the paintwork. Check door panels are the same size and that doors, windows and the boot shut properly
  • Do all the locks work correctly on the car?
  • Do the windows open properly?

Test driving is a great option because you can really feel how the car drives and decide if you like it. You can also use the test drive as another chance to check that everything is working properly on the vehicle. 

Making the purchase 

If you’re happy with everything you see, the next stage involves buying the car, either putting a deposit down and getting finance or buying it in full. There are just a few more things to check before crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. 

  • See how it compares to other cars of the same model on the market
  • Walk around the car and highlight anything you’ve spotted
  • Try asking for an MOT if you’re buying from the dealer and it’s close to the expiry date
  • Never be pressured into buying anything

Now you can cross the t’s and dot the i’s, as you will have undertaken a thorough check of the vehicle. Feel free to ask the seller any more questions before sealing the deal, but this is the stage where you can start getting excited about your new set of wheels. 

Buying with confidence

After doing the final checks, you can buy your car with more confidence and look forward to the best part: driving it away and starting a brand new relationship with your favourite new toy. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this article!