Top tips for buying your first used car

To ensure that your future driving experiences are all as positive as possible, it’s important to find the right car for you. You’ll quickly find that avoiding breakdowns, feeling comfortable, staying safe, and affordable running costs are just as important as liking the aesthetics of your new used car. However, it’s possible to find a car that fits both of these requirements, just take a look at the numerous car valuation options at or for example, and you’ll see that there are plenty of cars that’ll suit you perfectly!

Things to consider before buying your first used car

Bagging a reliable car doesn’t mean that you have to buy something that’s brand new. There are loads of dependable and well-maintained used cars out there, from as little as £1,000. If you’re a new driver, your insurance is more likely to be based on that lack of experience, but you should always make sure to check quotes for your prospective cars before you lay down the cash. Don’t feel like you have to rush or pressure yourself to buy a car, when it’s the right one for you, you’ll just know! If anything feels wrong, or the deal seems to be too good to be true, don’t be afraid to just walk away.

Before you go to view a car, it’s best practice to ask the seller to provide you with the registration number. With this information you can do an online MOT search and find out a little more about the car’s history – perhaps things that the dealer would hesitate to let you know. You can check for advisory items or failures, with the mind to make sure these issues really have been resolved, before you buy the car. This will also likely provide a rough guide to the car’s mileage and usage, such as long periods of disuse (perhaps signalling the car was out in storage), or any accidents and subsequent repairs.

How to prepare before buying your first used car

Make sure that you bring someone you trust, and who has some kind of car knowledge, with you, when you go to view a used car. They can check the vehicle over for you and be the voice of reason, to make sure that you don’t get too carried away, or miss a red flag. It’s also wise to have someone accompany you to any financial transactions, especially when dealing with cash. Some independent sellers might try to mask imperfections on the car, or leave out details, so it’s best to bring a second pair of eyes with you. Failing that – or if you really want to be thorough in your investigations – then you can also bring along a few tools to help you get that insider knowledge. Such as:

  • A torch – or you can just use the torch function on your smartphone. Any kind of bright and powerful light will be greatly beneficial when exploring the hidden areas on a used car
  • A smartphone/camera – you can use your smartphone to compare car values online, but primarily, the best use is to take pictures of anything that concerns you on the vehicle, documenting it
  • Disposable gloves – these can be helpful if you want to delve deeper and examine under the hood of the car or under wheels etc
  • A plastic covered magnet – this can help you in checking steel panels for filler
  • A tyre pressure and tread depth tool – this will be a useful tool to keep even after you’ve purchased a car, allowing you to monitor the condition of your tyres. This is important to do before laying down the cash, as a new set of tyres can sometimes cost even more than a used car itself!
  • A notepad and pen – this is always a good idea, as you can write down anything that’s leaving you in doubt and compare your thoughts after the viewing. This can also be a great way to note down things that you want to look out for, before you go to see a car. All that excitement can easily make you forget the important stuff!

Things to look out for when test driving your first used car

The most important thing to remember when buying your first used car is to always test drive the car. You should never buy a car without driving it, much like trying on a pair of shoes before you decide to make a purchase. Here are some other important things to look out for before paying out for your first used car:

  • Make sure that the seat, mirrors and steering wheel are comfortable, or can be easily adjusted to your liking
  • Inspect seatbelts for damage, and check that they are all still in working order
  • Check the brakes and assess how much pressure they need, before you test driving at speed
  • Drive the car around in a clockwise circle, as well as anti-clockwise, with the steering at full lock. Now, you should listen for rattles, clicks or grinding sounds, which signals that there’s a problem
  • Check that all lights on the car are working
  • Most of the time, the owner or dealer will accompany you during the test drive – don’t be afraid to ask questions!
  • Try and test drive the car on a varied route, so you can get a feel for how the car deals with speed bumps, roundabouts and long stretches of road

Whilst buying a used car is a lot cheaper than opting for brand new, there’s no reason to lower your standards! Don’t pay for something that you won’t be happy with – or will need a vast amount of money spent on it, just to get it back to full working order. Be smart!