Buying a used car can often be a smart financial decision due to significant savings over buying new. However, it can also be fraught with danger or unforeseen consequences if you don’t do the right research. A few simple checks when buying a used car could save you countless hours of headaches and stress in the future.
Is the car a write-off?
If a car has been involved in a serious accident, it may have been classed as a write-off. This means that the car has been badly damaged and is no longer legal or safe to drive on the road. To check if the used car you wish to purchase is a write off you can carry out an HPI check. An HPI check will show a huge amount of information about used cars, including details such as outstanding finance, if the car is stolen (these will be mentioned in more detail later) and if the car is a write off. You can get an HPI check easily either online or by text (you only need the registration of the used car you wish to purchase – nothing else!) and it costs anything from £3 to £10, depending on the company used. If an HPI check shows the car as being a write-off, walk away from the deal immediately!
Many people now buy new cars on finance, with the most common being a Hire Purchase or a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP). Whilst these deals can be great at helping you afford a car, it also means that the finance company remains the legal owner until the money is repaid in full. This of course means that if the current seller of the car stops making payments to the finance company, they will come and seize the car which you just paid for (leaving you significantly out of pocket!). A simple HPI check, as mentioned before, will show any outstanding finance on a used car for a small fee. If the car you want to buy does have outstanding finance, it doesn’t mean you should necessarily walk away from the deal – you can ask the seller to obtain what is known as a settlement figure from the finance company. This is how much the finance company needs to be paid in order to give you full ownership of the car. If the seller agrees to this then you may be able to work out a good deal, but if they refuse or look for excuses, walk away and never look back!
Is the car stolen?
If the used car you buy is stolen then you have no legal ownership of it, no matter how much you pay. If the car is recovered by the police it will be returned to its rightful owner and you will lose your money. Checking if a car is reported as stolen is easy – there are many services out there which charge a nominal fee and will let you know within minutes (including the HPI check mentioned previously). Other tell-tale signs of a stolen car are when the seller can’t product the vehicle registration document (V5C) or the name and address on the V5C are different to the seller’s driving licence. If you find that the used car you are looking at is stolen, walk away from the deal immediately and inform the police.
If you follow these simple checks then you can save yourself countless hours of headaches and stress when buying a used car. They only take a few minutes to complete and are a lot cheaper than losing all your money by having your car seized, or worse – risking your own safety by driving a car which has been written-off.