Buying a car can sometimes feel like navigating a minefield when it should be a fun and exciting experience. To make the process simpler and help you find ‘the one’ without the Carfuffle, here are our top five tips on what to do – and not do – when searching for your next used car:

Search Smart. Buy Right.

Don't pay anything before you have seen the car and remember, if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Do not transfer any funds to a seller before you have seen the car in person. Most fraudulent activity draws you in to transfer money before seeing the car. Whilst some services may be legitimate, our firm advice is to never transfer funds until you have satisfied yourself with all factors in this list which need to be done in person.
  • Check that the price of the car is in-line with the market. We all love a bargain, but a price that’s “too good to be true” is often a sign of fraud. If a car appears under-priced, ask the seller questions surrounding the valuation to satisfy yourself that the transaction is legitimate.
  • Always inspect any car you are looking to purchase and take it for a test drive. This should be done from the forecourt of a car dealership or, in the case of private sales, from somebody’s home address. Don’t agree to buy from a lay-by or service station, even if the seller offers to meet you half way.
  • The seller should be able to display documents including the V5C, which lists the address the vehicle is registered to. Check this against the address you have visited to inspect the car. You should also check that the mileage matches up against the vehicle’s service and MOT history. Mileage should have been recorded at every MOT since the car was three years old – a discrepancy could be a warning indicator of car clocking (the process of rolling-back the odometer to display a false mileage).
  • When you are happy to go ahead and buy, look to pay in such a way that you can track your money (for instance by credit card), and remember that cash transactions cannot be tracked.

Never be afraid to ask questions about a car you are considering buying and, if things don’t look right, walk away – don’t feel pressured or assume you can fix any faults later.

Above all, make sure you are completely satisfied before you hand over a penny or make any commitments. Your instinct is one of your best tools, so don't be afraid to use it. 

The responsibility to check the sale is legitimate resides with you as the buyer. This is known as “buyer beware” and it is important that you have satisfied yourself that the transaction is legitimate and right for you. As a classified advertising site, disclaims any responsibility for the information published on the car as we receive the information direct from advertisers. However, the vast majority of car sales are perfectly legitimate, and by keeping your wits about you and following our tips, we hope that we will be able to buy with confidence.

For advice videos and more information on safe buying, visit our security page.

Sarah Lewis


February 19, 2014