Used cars – tips for buying and selling cars that can stop you being ripped off

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used cars

Used cars tips to help you get a good deal when buying a car (Image: GETTY)

Buying a used car can be a tricky business and you can often feel confused or out of your depth.

It can be hard to know if you’re getting a good deal online, or whether or not you can trust the person selling the vehicle.

In addition to this, it is hard to tell the condition of the vehicle if you’re knowledge of cars is limited.

Similarly, if you are selling a car online can be difficult as there are a number of documents, steps, and procedures that need to be completed before you flog the vehicle.

Gumtree has compiled a list of top tips to help motorists when they are buying and selling vehicles online.

Top tips for buying a car online:

Check the paperwork: Request purchase receipts, V5C and do an HPI check for outstanding finance, mileage and to ensure the car is legal to sell. If you have the registration in advance, check the car’s history online and ask about servicing and MOT status.

Look under the bonnet: As well as examining the exterior of the car, don’t forget to check under the car for rust or leaks and look under the bonnet. Check fluid levels are fresh and topped up and be wary of whiffs of steam or hot oil.

Ask about the age of the cambelt and the battery to uncover an instant bargaining chip. Check the underside of the oil filler cap for white splodges (known as ‘mayonnaise’) that can reveal a failed head gasket and look for oil splatter on the engine, which might suggest a previous leak.

Interrogate the inside: Check the keys/fobs are present and ask if there’s a spare set. Consider the mileage and any wear and tear to the gearstick, steering wheel and pedals. Start the car and test the wipers and lights. Press all the buttons and look out for any warning lights from the engine management system.

Take it for a test drive: It’s always best to see the car in action so even if your insurance doesn’t allow it, ask the owner to take you for a quick spin and perform some basic tests like an emergency stop and watch the gauges work properly, settle quickly and remain steady.

Listen out for any nasty noises and ensure the streering is straight, there is no judder at speed and the car is not pulling to one side.

Make handovers official: Ensure you and the owner have filled in the correct transfer sections on the V5c and you have a ‘chit’ to confirm change of ownership.

Make sure the MOT is valid and that you’ve insured and taxed it in your name as the rules around this have changed since the disk system. Enjoy your new car!

Top tips for selling a car online:

Set the stage: Be organised and prepare your paperwork (including your V5C, MoT certificate and servicing receipts) in advance. Give the car a proper wash and polish (or pay for a professional valet), vacuum the carpets and give the interior a wipe over.

Look at how you can replace anything that looks tatty – from wipers to wheel trims to chips and scratches, small touches can make a big difference. Get smart repairs done to bumper scuffs and parking dents – mobile body repairs are very cost effective.

Make sure you have all the parts: Does the key or fob work in all the locks? Is there a spare set? Do you know the security code for the radio? Reassure potential buyers that you have all the necessary tools and accessories for the car you are selling.

Check out the competition: Search sites like Gumtree to help you judge the right price to offer your car for. Check out what other sellers are offering and look at factors like mileage, condition and service history to help you make a decision.

Make the meet count: Remember you’re selling yourself as much as the car so be helpful and forthcoming with information.

Be wary of handing over the keys but do offer to show them round and start the engine. Don’t let the V5C out of your sight and don’t let anyone copy it.

If they ask for a test drive, ask to see evidence of their insurance first and go with them. If they aren’t insured, offer to drive them and perform a few basic tests while they are in the car as a passenger.

Seal the deal: Don’t sign anything away until you’ve seen the money or agreed a secure way of transferring it.

Make sure your buyer completes the V5C and you give them a ‘chit’ in return so you can inform the DVLA. Make sure you cancel your VED/tax. Then hit the classifieds for your new car!

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Post Author: martin

Martin is an enthusiastic programmer, a webdeveloper and a young entrepreneur. He is intereted into computers for a long time. In the age of 10 he has programmed his first website and since then he has been working on web technologies until now. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of and Online Magazines. His colleagues appreciate him as a passionate workhorse, a fan of new technologies, an eternal optimist and a dreamer, but especially the soul of the team for whom he can do anything in the world.

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