August 25, 2015 at 1:39 PM

Buying a used car is a commitment, this checklist gives you the certainty you do not get fooled

Along the years we have noticed that lots of people get fooled when buying a used car. Here at Used cars of Bristol we decided it was time to give you a series of tips not to be anymore. We do all these checks ourselves but we are more than happy to let you do these when you come see us this is pure transparency!

Prior to viewing

Choosing a car is an important decision that should not be taken lightly

Here are a few questions you should consider:

  • What are your needs? (large family, status car, second car, commercial use)
  • What is your budget?
  • Is the car known to be reliable?
  • Is the car safe?
  • Do not forget that your driving experience should have an influence on your car choice.

Compare similar cars

You should compare similar cars as an ad can look great at first glance but then reveal itself as being a rip-off. Several websites are great for this such as CarbaseAuto Trader and others.



The budgeting of a vehicle is extremely important as buying a car entails a certain number of costs in addition to the purchase. Among these costs are:



When you think about car insurance you need to choose first between three types: Third Party, Third Party Fire & Theft or Comprehensive. See below a short explanation of these types of insurance.

  • Third Party: Third Party insurance only covers the damage you cause and nothing else.
  • Third Party Fire & theft: This type of insurance usually covers the damages you cause as well as hazards like fire or theft.
  • Comprehensive: This cover type is the one which provides you with the maximum levels of protection, this level of protection covers both the damages you cause and the damages to your vehicle.

Another element to consider can be additional services such as; legal protection, breakdown cover, overseas driving and much more.


With regards to servicing, follow the popular wisdom: “The finer are the mechanics, the more complex they are to repair.” Servicing is one of the main costs of car ownership. If you know how to do some elements such as oil changes you can save a bit of money, however your service history won’t be completed which may result in a reduction of your car value.


With the price of petrol over £1 per litre most people count the pence in their wallets; the choice of fuel can make a difference to your running costs. Several options are available such as: Petrol/Diesel, Hybrids, LPG or fully Electric.

You also need to consider the consumables such as the brake pads (roughly £70 front and rear and at least 1 hour of work), the tyres at least 1 set per year (best value at £150 / mid-range £260/ upper range £500), engine fluids and oils top ups (between £5 and £50) and other small expenses.


MOT is compulsory for every vehicle over 3 years of age, currently its price is set by the government at £54.85.

Road tax

Depending on the type of vehicle you own and its CO2 emissions your road tax can be huge or £0, see below for the categories:

CO2 Emissions in g/km (Tax Band)

First year rate

Annual Rate

Up to 100




































Over 255



However from 2017 all cars registered will face a new set of charges:

CO2 Emissions in g/km (Tax Band)

First year rate

Annual Rate



























Over 255


Cars above £40,000 pay £310 annual supplement for five year

Additional costs (if commercial use)

Additional cost can add up if you are using your vehicle for commercial purposes such as being a Private Hire, a Cab, a Fleet operator etc.


On your visit

Once you are certain of the vehicle you want, when you go see a vehicle take your time, some dealers may try to speed up the inspection of the vehicle, but others can actually play it fair and show you the imperfections of a car. Still there are elements that you can control prior making any choice.

General state of the car


Here is a checklist about the state of the car:

  • Look for imperfections on the paintwork or refill on the windscreen (hidden repairs)
  • Does the mileage correspond to the advert?
  • Is the V5C available and does the VIN match?
  • Is there a spare wheel?
  • Check the seatbelts
  • Check the tyres and brake pads
  • Check the lighting

Test drive

Ask to test drive the vehicle, if the dealer refuses for a reason that is not justifiable it may indicate that there is an issue with it, otherwise here are the things to check when driving:

  • Allow at least half an hour and drive on all kinds of road – a test drive in a town is of little use if you spend most time driving on a motorway.
  • Can you get in and out of the car easily?
  • Can you adjust the seat and steering so you're comfortable?
  • Can you see the instruments clearly and reach the controls easily?
  • Try reversing into a parking space to check all round visibility and blind spots.
  • Take your children with you – are they comfortable in the back?
  • Take any child seats you use with you and check that they fit
  • Is there space for your regular shopping bags, luggage, golf clubs, pushchair etc?  Can you fold the rear seats easily?
  • Is the boot sill low enough? Will you be able to unload shopping and luggage easily from the back?
  • Is it easy to take out and re–fit removable seats?  Ask the owner's permission before you try.

Here are things to look for:

  • Engine & Suspension: Is the engine warm, check for smoke, check for rattles and clonks from the suspension
  • Steering & Brake: steering and brakes should be responsive
  • Clutch & gears: The clutch should not bite before the pedal has nearly reached the top
  • Electric cars: If you buy an electric car check for the range and charging time as well

General questions

  • Is the vehicle covered by the manufacturers/dealer warranty?
  • How many keys are included?
  • Is the catalytic converter and exhaust system intact?
  • Does the cruise control work (if available)
  • What are the payment facilities?
  • What is the road tax?
  • What is the MPG?
  • Which fuel does it take?
  • Where did the car come from?
  • How many owners did the car have?


Once you have made your choice make sure that you:

  • Keep track of all payments and invoices
  • Are given the V5C
  • Are given the Service Book
  • If using a finance solution, make sure you have all the documents
  • Get a parking permit
  • Arrange the insurance and road tax


If you need some additional information prior to making the final call, check on the DVLA website to verify the car details.


Tags: Checklist Buying Guide Used Cars
Category: Buying Guides

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Registered Address: Westwood Car and Commercial Ltd, Hartley Garage, Ash Road, Hartley, Longfield, Kent DA3 8EL

Financial Disclosure:
Westwood Car and Commercial Limited act as a non-independent credit intermediary for a limited number of finance lenders and can introduce you to a limited number of finance products to assist with your vehicle purchase. Westwood Car and Commercial Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA number: 661967) as a Credit Broker not a Lender.

Our FCA Permitted business is arranging finance contracts. You can check this on the FCA Register by visiting the WWW.FCA.ORG.UK or by contacting the FCA direct on 0800 111 6768.