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Tips On Buying A Used Car


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Why dont we create this thread with tips on what to look out for when buying a used car.

General Engine Inspection.. what to look for in the service history etc etc.

I shall place the best ones as a buying guide for members.

Anyone have any tips? Lets hear them!

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how about, when looking at an engine and its condition. always check the oil cap as a mayonaise looking deposit under the cap could be due to coolant entering the oil due to a blown gasket. this is symptomatic of overheated warped head type troubles


look around the door handles for signs of after factory paint. should tell you iff the car has been broken into and fixed. these things are not always recorded...

while checkin paint take a magnet to run over bodywork. LEx don;t have ally panels so magnet should stick all over. if not, could be filler, whats it covering??

if the car has different make of tyres on the same axle it shows lack of care by owner possibley unless its just one tyre and its been the spar that went on...?

does the owner seem the sort of person you want to hand over money to? more often than not, if the owner is dodgy the car will be too. trust your judgment, its a lot of money!

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The interior will also tell you a lot about the owners attitude towards his/her car. Dirty carpets, scuff marks, rips in the seat fabric or fag burns suggest someone who doesn't care much, and who may have scrimped on routine maintenance or other aspects of the car which may not be so obvious.

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First thing to do is ask to see the car's V5 (Vehicle Registration Document or 'log book').

Examine the document closely to see if any alterations have been made to it, confirm the seller's name and address and check for the watermark. If the car was bought recently and the seller says the V5 is still with the DVLA, then the seller should have the green slip — this applies to new V5s only, introduced in March 1997.

Check that the date of first registration, the registration index (i.e. the letters and number on the number plate) and the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) all correspond to the car. The VIN carries codes for the model type and date of construction. It's usually a metal plate with punched figures and is located either under the bonnet in front of the engine or to one side. Check to see if the VIN plate has been interfered with or moved for any reason. If so, walk away.

If the car is over 3 years old, Check the mileage on the MOT certificate against the car's mileometer. The MoT certificate means that the car was roadworthy when tested — it does not imply that the car is safe or capable of passing another test.

If the seller cannot provide the car's vital V5 and MoT documentation, don't buy it.

Squat down dead centre 8-10 feet in front of the car and look at the four wheels. All four must be in perfect alignment — if the front and rear wheels appear to be out of alignment the car's bodyshell may have been distorted in a collision.

Look at the tyre treads for signs of irregular wear. If one or both front tyres are worn unevenly, it may mean the car suffers from misalignment of the steering system, or more serious problems.

All tyres must have at least 1.6mm of tread across three-quarters of the tread area, and must be free of gashes, splits or bulges.

Stand in front of each corner of the car and look carefully down its sides — any ripples and dents in the panels or poorly matched paintwork may point to badly repaired accident damage.

Check that the doors, bonnet and boot or tailgate open and close properly, and that the gaps between them and the bodyshell are equal.

Check the edges of panels and around the doors, bonnet, and boot/tailgate, for signs of respraying. Any paint sprayed on to rubber, plastic or chrome trim points to a respray job.

Test the shock absorbers by bouncing each corner up and down have a dozen times before letting go. It if bounces more than twice, a shock-absorber is faulty. Check for leaks and for rust around the points where they attach to the body.

Check the mileometer. Is overall condition of the car consistent with the mileage? If the 'clock' says 40,000 miles but the driver's seat is saggy and the pedal rubbers and carpets are worn, the car has probably been clocked!

A poorly maintained car is usually given away by: dull paintwork; missing trim; cracked lights, windows or mirrors; unrepaired bodywork damage or untreated rust; a dirty interior; and tatty carpets.

Check the levels of radiator coolant, engine oil, and the brake fluid. A low brake-fluid level suggests neglect or even a serious fault in the hydraulic system. Look for signs of leaking fluids.

Check the undersides of the doors for rusting, and examine the lower parts of external door panels for bubbling under the paint — a sure sign of internal corrosion.

Look at all exposed areas of bodywork, (bonnet and grille, lower body panels and wheel arches) where damage can be caused by stones flung up from the road.

You should get as low down as possible to look for corrosion under the car, defective under sealing and signs of damage to the exhaust.

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Oh and another thing, if buying privately and you phone the seller just say "I'm ringing about the car for sale". If the seller hesitates, or says "Which car?" then they're probably a trader.

Also, try and view the car at the address shown on the registration document if at all possible. That'll help confirm the seller is legit.

In the early days when I bought cars, you'd go with a mate and ask him to follow while you went for a test drive. Your mate could then spot things like the car "crabbing" along the road (serious steering geometry problem), or puffs of white/black smoke under acceleration (burning oil, etc.).

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UK Pulse,

I agree you should try and see the car at the owners address. I however NEVER sell a car privately from my address as there are too many thieving bar stewards that will come for a joy ride and then come back later when they have seen where you keep the keys and nick it!

I had some rum fu**ers follow me home in my company 323ci After I had bought a 325i Convertible. 5:45 that morning the window was broken and my case nicked.

went to work, got the window fixed and went home. dealer delivered my rag top. I took it round to my folks and when I went home the nextday, 323ci was gone!

never let scrotes know where you keep your nice stuff.

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Good point Loz - hadn't thought of that :o

If some thievin toerag knows where your motor is, you can bet he'll be back with a slim-jim rather than a cheque. Hope you got the 323ci back!

Also, I guess some tips on how to check the car you want to buy isn't nicked, or the subject of some unpaid loan agreement? Like if the seller has the V5 but it's missing the bottom section? Must admit, I for one am not sure how you get an HPI check done. :unsure:

/Edit - ooops, shoulda read Fidgits post - he's got the V5 thing covered :blush:

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