6 checks to complete before purchasing a used family car

When you need a new family car, a great way to save money is to buy a used car. By searching online, you can find great car deals, but to separate the good from the too good to be true, there are a number of checks and precautions that you must make before you hand over any cash.

Our guide will provide you with a road map and reveal some top tips when buying a used family car.

What car do I need?

When looking for a used family car, we tend to already know what car we want, but is this the car we need? Before looking at any cars, make yourself a list of essential requirements. Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint these, so think of questions instead. What can I afford? How much do I need for the family? Does it have child seat fixing points? What size boot do I need?  Is it cheap to run?

They are also other points to consider based on your family activities. If you do a lot of long-distance driving do you need a car that has cruise control? In addition to this does the car need to do anything specific such as towing or fitting within a small garage?

All these types of questions will help you create your list of requirements. VW Polo could be a great choice for a family car.

What can I do before viewing or test driving a car?

They are some checks you can complete yourself by communicating with the seller before you even go view a used car.

Gather as much information as you can about the used car from the seller. We always advised a minimum of Registration number, Make, Model, MOT & TAX details, Mileage Information, Vin Number.

We call this the ‘seller test’. If they do not know much about the car or the history it could be a sign, they are not the owner.

In addition to this, by collecting this information you have the tools to complete and cross-reference a reg check. These checks are inexpensive and you can use this information to discover the complete history of the vehicle. These checks will show you if the Vin number matches, if the car has any outstanding finance, if it has been written-off or stolen and much more.

Without an online vehicle reg check, this article would be 20+ checks to complete before purchasing a used family car. However, this check completes so much of the hard work for us and takes a lot of the stress away.

We are not saying the seller is not trustworthy, but they may hold some important information from you in order to get a quick sale of the vehicle.

Check Valuations Online

This one may seem obvious, but many people don’t do it properly. Make sure you know the going rate of a used car you are looking to buy. As the used market isn’t as clear as when you are buying a brand-new car. Not only do you have to check the make and model, but also any additional extras which are on the car. If you desperately need the inbuilt sat-nav, there is no point in comparing the price of a car that doesn’t have this.

However, one key area that many people seem to forget is that the mileage of a car affects the price of a used car dramatically.

Once you know the going rate for the vehicle you want to buy, you will also find it easier to negotiate.

Best time to view a used car

Firstly, never view a car on your own. Always view a used car with a friend or family member. As well as providing additional safety, they may also see or hear things that you don’t.

We would usually advise arranging any car viewings at the home of the seller. We would always be suspicious if they would only let you view the car in a public area such as a car park or petrol station. This could mean they don’t want you to know where they live if there are any issues with the car.

Try to arrange a viewing on a good weather day too! Don’t go when it’s dark or raining as this can easily disguise or hide any blemishes or defects on the car. The rain droplets or poor light can easily hide scratches, dents and missing parts that you would easily see in better conditions.

Another key area to check is the locks and windows. Check they are the same on both sides, as differences could highlight any repair from an attempted break in. Check the central locking opens all doors, and importantly check the manual locking also works. Don’t forget to check the windows fully open and close, and if the car has a sunroof this works as it should. If you begin noticing a lot of defects but you like the car, it may be worth having an independent inspection to ensure these are just cosmetic and no structural issues are hidden.

However, the inspection of the car does not stop on the outside. Make sure you inspect inside the vehicle too! Look at the centre console, door cards, seats and even look under any mats.

As well as allowing you to view the vehicle properly, and forming part of your decision if this car is right for you, these small defects can also become a powerful negotiating tool.

Vehicle Inspections Helps During Negotiations.

If you are not a natural negotiator, completing a good vehicle inspection can help you lead into this type of discussion. Negotiations do not need to be as daunting and complicated as some people say.

You can reduce the listed price of the used car by introducing many factors you have learned about the history, valuation and appearance of the car.

If you are buying a used car from a dealership, you can also use specific months to help increase your chance of good negotiations. As they tend to work on quarterly sale targets, good times buy around the months of March, June, September and December. Also, try to visit during natural quiet times and avoid weekends and dates around payday.

One key aspect I would say helps with my negotiation skill is ‘don’t fill the silence’. A lot of times when it is close to an agreement figure, the seller may stay silent hoping you accept. Don’t be pressured into filling the silence, and try to make them fill this silence with a better offer.

Don’t forget you can always walk away if the deal is not something you want or have budgeted for. Never go above the budget you have set. The famous saying is true and sometimes by walking away, or even starting to, sellers often reconsider and can be more open to negotiations.

Test Drive

Always remember before getting into the driver’s seat and taking a test drive, make sure you’re insured. Make sure your own insurance policy allows you to drive other cars with the owner’s permission. If you are unsure, please check with your insurance provider first!

Before setting off on the drive, as well as making sure you’re comfortable and ready to drive, you can use this time to also gives you chance to check some areas of the car. Does the seat slide, raise, tilt? Does it have lumbar support? Can you change the steering wheel position?

We would suggest a minimum of half an hour test drive. During this time make sure you try different routes and different driving speeds. Whilst on the test drive, do not play any music or have the radio on. This allows you to listen and hear any strange noises when driving the car. Whilst driving the car around these areas, think about how comfortable you are driving the car, are passengers comfortable in the back, is it a smooth drive, what is the car’s power like, and more.

Get a feel for how the steering reacts. Does it have much ‘wiggle’ room before it begins to steer the car? Does it naturally veer to one side or does it drive straight? As well as steering make sure you test the brakes. Do a safe emergency stop on an empty road and don’t forget to test the handbrake by parking on a steep hill.