Choosing the car and dealer.
If you haven’t already make a shortlist of the cars you like. Decide on essential features to determine the spec of the model for instance- fuel type, low cost road tax,engine size, stop/start technology, Bluetooth, sat nav, air con, alloys etc.
Now check across the web for details about the car, doing your homework wont just confirm you’ve chosen correctly, it will also give you confidence and allow you to communicate you requirements when dealing with the salesman. Do a search online for known problems or recalls with the model and year. But also search and take note of the manufacturers recommendations for oil type, service intervals and belt and filter replacements.
Once your sure, search the web using your price limit as a guide to find the vehicles with the lowest age and mileage for your budget. You should see that prices are roughly the same between dealers but take notes, you might be able to negotiate a better price if there are big differences. Look for reviews, ask friends and relatives and go with the dealer with best reputation, bare in mind its not just about getting the best price.
Before going to your chosen car dealer…
Take a screen print of the car advertisement, take more than one if it apears on different websites. Showrooms have been known to miss represent their cars online and wrongly listed information like the power or engine size might not become apparent until after you've bought.
Check there is no outstanding credit on the vehicle and that it hasn't been declared an insurance write-off. Call the garage and ask if they have done an HPI check or carry one out yourself for your own piece of mind, there are various websites that offer this service.
IMPORTANT: You should not read any further without looking at the DVLA’s guidelines they are essential reading for any first time used car buyer.
At the dealers…The paperwork
The pack that comes with the car is usually housed in a posh looking folder supplied when new by the manufacturer. It should contain past and current Mot certificates, the car and service manual, it may also include receipts for replacement parts and past work carried out.
A car with a service history is a major selling point and can acheive a better price for the dealer. With this in mind it is important to scrutinise the details thorourghly, possible anomalies could be evidence of fraudulent documentation or previous major repair work. Check service entries against the information obtained from your online detective work. Ask to be left alone to look over it, take all the time you need. Here's some things to look out for:-
Check as per DVLA’s guidelines.
Check that the servicing garages name and address are on the stamp in the corner of each service record, you could look online for info on the garage.
Check the city of each garage stamp. If they are in different towns this might indicate different owners, does this match up with that declared by the salesman?
If you can look at a different car in the same lot check the service stamps aren’t the same this could indicate a fraudulent stamp.
Check that the date and mileage of each service roughly match the details on any MOT certificates.
Check the Service history and garage receipts against your findings in your online searches. Oil changes, service intervals, timing belt and filter changes. Check if the known problems from your search findings have effected this car and if they been fixed?
When you are completely satisfied with all the accompanying documentation it is time to check the car over.