Buying a used car? Here’s what to look out for

Buying a used car? Here’s what to look out for

You can keep yourself much safer when buying a used car by keeping an eye out for a few key warning signs. These 10 pointers will have you checking out motors like a seasoned pro.

1. Ask the seller to show you the V5C registration document because you won’t be able to tax the car without it. Also check the VIN (vehicle identification number), engine number and colour match the numbers on the document.

2. Check that the mileage, age and appearance of the car look consistent. Average annual mileage is around 12,000 miles, with anything much higher or lower being a warning sign. If the car has old MOT certificates available, check the mileage on them to see if they match.

3. You can quickly see if an MOT certificate is genuine by checking its details against the government’s online MOT database at All you need is the make and number plate.

4. Look for inconsistent gaps between panels or mismatched colours, as well as unusual welding. These could all be signs of extensive repairs after a crash, so keep an eye out for them.

5. If you can take a test drive check that all warning lights on the dashboard work normally, then listen out for any unusual noises. Keep an eye on whether the car brakes normally and if the steering wheel vibrates or pulls to the side.

6. Do all the seatbelts operate correctly? Check there are no cuts or fraying that could affect the way they work.

7. Are the tyres in good condition and the same size and type? If they have less than 3mm of tread they’ll need to be replaced soon. And is the spare wheel (or sealant kit) present?

8. If the car has airbags, make sure the warning lights come on with the ignition and then go out after a few seconds.

9. If locking wheel nuts are fitted, check that the special adapter needed to remove them is in the car somewhere.

10. Have a look around the engine for any leaks or rust. Dark brown oil stains on the engine block means there’s a leak in a gasket, possibly leading to an expensive repair in the future.

You can find a more exhaustive list of things to look out for at the AA

If you’re looking for your first car, a great place to start is with the Co-op Insurance Safe used first car award.  We created it to recognise vehicles that offer comprehensive safety equipment ideal for young drivers. Check it out today.