Buying a second-hand car can be stressful – there are so many things that you’ll need to consider before making your purchase. Do I want a 4×4? How much should I spend? What kind of engine do I need? Do I want petrol or diesel or a hybrid or electric? These are just some of the questions you might ask yourself before deciding on your next motor.

Friday-Ad is here to help make your purchase easier! We’ve created this Buyer’s Guide to Second-Hand Cars to cover the common issues you may encounter when purchasing a new motor. Before you part with any cash, make sure your prospective car passes our checklist…

Before you go on the hunt…

What do I want this for?

If you’re looking for your first car to get you to a new job, for example, you probably shouldn’t be looking for a Jaguar X-Type. Choose appropriately for your needs.

Will you be predominantly driving in a city? If so, a smaller engined car might be more suitable.

Likewise, if you’re largely going to be driving around the countryside, then a 4×4 might be more appropriate for you.

What’s my budget?

You might already have a budget in mind, but if not, the first thing you should do after deciding what size/type of motor you want, is to do some research. Have a look at cars that fall into the category of car you’re looking for. This way you can get an idea of what is out there, whilst also gauging the average price of what you’d like.

What are the running costs?

This concerns a number of aspects that can add cost your purchase in the long run, including:

Road Tax

Smaller, economical motors will generally have a lower car tax.


There’s no point getting a flash car if you can’t afford to pay the insurance on it.

Fuel Consumption

Be sure to gauge how much it will cost you to keep the thing running. Is it known for being economical?

General Maintenance

You need to find the balance between value and age, an older car may be cheaper at first but it is likely to incur more maintenance costs.

Things to check before you buy

Dip the oil

The engine is arguably the most important aspect of the car. It’s what gets you from A-B after all.

Check the oil levels. If you haven’t done this before, get yourself an old piece of cloth or rag, locate the dipstick, lift it out, wipe it so it’s clean, dip it back into the engine and lift it back up. At this point check to see if the level of the oil is between the minimum and the maximum on the dipstick. If it isn’t, then you need to ask why.


Look for any cosmetic damage on the paintwork. Make sure you look at a car in dry, bright conditions if possible, as rust and general wear and tear is easier to hide in dark or wet weather. Any damage that is more than cosmetic should be considered in the valuation of the car.


Now you might think that you need to check the engine, interior or gearbox to tell how hard the car has been driven. Take a look at the tyres. If the tyres are almost balding you know that new ones are going to be needed and therefore the seller needs to be made aware of this.

Let’s go for a test drive


The brakes are just as important as the engine. These can be tested during your test drive of the motor – and you should ALWAYS test drive the car. Do a few emergency stops to ensure that the brakes work, and so that you can see if they can withstand the sudden impact.


Similar to the brakes, this needs to be thoroughly tested during the test drive. You don’t want to have to have to shell out for a new clutch, you’ve paid enough for the car itself. The best way to test this is to see if it is slipping or if it feels too hard to push down. If it feels like it has either of these issues, be sure to make it known.


Testing the exhaust is fairly simple. All you need to do is press down on the throttle and listen. Does it sound right? It should sound consistent and relatively basic. However, if it sounds too deep or unnatural, it might be one of three things. It’s either a blowing exhaust, a modification to the exhaust or a modification to the engine.

Let’s have a look inside…

Wear and tear

When you have finished your test drive, have a look at the interior. Does it have any serious wear and tear? Keep in mind the mileage of the motor. The higher the mileage, the more likely the interior is going to be more dated/worn. Another big aspect that can affect the interior is if the previous owner is a smoker. Keep your eyes peeled for cigarette burns.

Other aspects to consider…

Check the service history

A sure-fire way to know that you are getting what you pay for is to check the motors service history. If you buy a second-hand car from somebody you don’t know without checking this first, it is a recipe for disaster.

Do a background check

Nowadays it’s relatively simple to perform a background check on the car to see if it has been in an accident previously. A short call to HPI will tell you if the car has ever been written off or if it is stolen.

Time to buy

Location, location, location

If you are buying from an unknown seller, be sure to meet them at their home. This prevents you from being stitched up, and if anything was to go wrong with the car, you have a home address and number.

Don’t forget to haggle

It’s well known that people of the UK don’t generally enjoy haggling for fear of being rude. But when it comes to buying a second-hand car, it’s essential if you’re to get a good price. The seller will be expecting it, so don’t be shy.

Here’s all that information in a handy infographic which you can save and check your progress with later:

DIG13369-Buying2ndHandCarInfographic (3)

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