How to choose the right second-hand car
Choosing the right used vehicle can be trickier than it first seems. With so many options available from a host of renowned manufacturers, how can you be sure which make and model best fits your needs?
Here, we take a look at what factors you can consider when buying a pre-owned car, and how you can narrow down your options.
What to consider when buying a used car
When it comes to choosing your next model, your requirements and budget should be top of your list of considerations. Put aside the good looks and dynamic performance of a sports coupé, for example, if what you really need is a spacious crossover for a growing family. In addition to how much space you’ll need (include the boot capacity in this), decide what your performance and connectivity requirements are.
Will an engine that doesn’t pull so well at low revs end up frustrating you? Do you spend a lot of your working day on the road, making Bluetooth an essential? If you’re travelling with the kids a lot, are you looking for enhanced safety kit? All these factors must be carefully thought through, and should help you settle on a body style and some basic equipment needs.
Your budget is an important consideration too. There’s no point stretching yourself to the limits of your means on a premium model when a slightly more affordable one will tick as many boxes – if not more. Remember that it’s not just the monthly instalments for the vehicle itself that you’ll need to cover – take into account running costs such as fuel, insurance and maintenance too.
What to check before buying a used car
If you’re buying from a reputable dealership, you won’t have much to worry about. Trustworthy dealers will always give their used cars a mechanical inspection and full HPI check before putting them on sale, ensuring everything is in good working order and there’s no outstanding finance. You may want to ask about the service history, however, and going for a test drive is strongly recommended, so you know the vehicle is suited to you. Don’t be embarrassed to give the car a visual check yourself too – look for scratches or imperfections in the paintwork as well as the condition of the interior.
If you’re buying from a private seller, there’s more to check. Again, ask to see evidence of the service history, and inspect the log book to ensure the seller is the owner of the car, and therefore legally able to sell it. You may also want to check the VIN number against that in the log book, and give the car a visual once-over. A test drive is essential too, as it can alert you to any mechanical issues that the seller may not have mentioned.
Used car mileage – what is too much?
Mileage is a fairly personal factor – you might be looking for a super cheap model as a first car, or because you cover a lot of miles yourself. If you want to go for an average number on the clock, however, look for vehicles that have covered 12,000-15,000 miles per year. So, a five-year-old car might have between 60,000-75,000 on the clock. Anything under 12,000 miles a year is considered reasonable to low mileage.
The best second-hand cars to buy
Independent reviews are always worth checking when you’re buying a used car. Sites such as Auto Express and What Car? often do the hard work for you and publish lists of the best second-hand cars to buy. Among the winners of the What Car? Used Car of the Year Awards in 2018 were the Mercedes-Benz E-Class estate, the Audi A3, the Mazda CX-5 SUV and the Ford Fiesta.