Used car buyer

 The information in this guide was last updated on 26/02/2014

Buying a used car is a great way of cutting the cost of your driving as most new cars lose around 40% of their value in the first year.

But there are risks so it's important to take your time rather than rush into any deal, and to buy as far as possible with your head rather than your heart.

Important things to remember when buying a used car...


Tips to help you on your way

1. Once you've set your heart on a car, it's advisable to order an HPI check. This is just to make sure it's not stolen or has outstanding finance on it.

2. It's always safer to meet the person that's selling the car at their house, rather than your home, a car park or another random location. That way you stand a better chance of gauging whether the seller is legitimate and trustworthy. Don't forget to ask for proof of identity as well, such as their driving licence or a utility bill.

3. Always double-check the vehicle's VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) tallies with the one on the vehicle's registration document.

4. Although a car might appear shiny and well looked after, it's always best to take someone along who knows what to look for and which questions to ask.

5. It sounds obvious, but always make sure you view the car in good, natural, daylight. Avoid night-time or poor weather where you can't really take a thorough look.

6. Where possible, pick a car that comes with a full service history. That way, you have a fairly good idea of how well (or not!) it's been maintained – and when the next service is due too.

7. When viewing the car, don't feel rushed. Methodically check over the exterior, the underside, tyre tread and paintwork for chips and rust spots. It's often the little things that will help you knock the price down a bit.

8. Have a good nose around inside too. Look for telltale signs of excessive wear, such as worn carpets and pedals. Ask yourself if the wear and tear you're seeing is consistent with the car's mileage.

9. Make sure the seatbelts, locks, electric windows, fans, CD, radio (and anything else) work fine. On the test drive, check the mileometer is working as well.



The last thing anybody wants is a car that keeps breaking down and costing a fortune. So take a good look around first and see which cars are considered to be the most reliable.

Here's a list of the top 10 most reliable cars to get your started.

Top 10 reliable manufacturers
Top 10 reliable manufacturers
1 Honda
2 Suzuki
3 Hyundai / Subaru
5 Toyota
6 Lexus
7 Chevrolet
8 Mitsubishi
9 Ford / Mazda

Source: What Car?/Warranty Direct, July 2013



Find out about the different finance options available to you in our Ways to pay section.

You can also use our simple loan calculator to see how much a Nationwide loan could cost.

Other useful information

Other useful information

It's only natural that sellers will be looking to get as much as possible for their car, so do your homework and find the true value first. Try somewhere like Glass's Car Guide or Parkers.

Registration documents
If you're buying the car, you and the seller will need to complete the relevant section of the V5C document. You then keep the green tear-off section and the seller sends the other part to the DVLA. Visit the DVLA to find out more.

Finance documents 
Always make sure there's no finance outstanding on the car. If there is, and the buyer doesn't settle up with the finance company beforehand, you could end up losing the car – with no come-back.

Don't forget, you'll need insurance in place before you drive the car away – or even take it for a test drive. It might pay to check early on how much the monthly premium will be too. Generally, more affordable, smaller, cars with modest engines and cheap parts have the lowest premiums.

Road tax
If there is any time left on the road tax, be sure it's included in the sale. If it's being sold untaxed, you will need to have road tax in place before driving it away. Why not haggle with the seller to see if they will arrange the road tax for you?

If there is any warranty left on the car, remember to let the warranty company know about change of ownership. That way, if you need to claim on it, there shouldn't be a problem. Also check the warranty can be transferred with the car.

Log books, receipts, MoT certificates
As an absolute minimum, make sure you ask for the appropriate parts of the car's log book (or Registration Document) and any applicable MoT certificate. The full service history is useful too; you won't know when it's next due a service (which could affect the warranty if missed). The next owner will also ask for it if you come to sell the car in the future. You can always ask for any old MoT certificate(s) - plus any garage receipts and other paperwork which is always handy.

Nobody relishes the idea of haggling, but an awkward 10 minutes or so might just save you a few quid. Don't be afraid to make a reasonable offer – and don't give up too easily. Equally though, if things aren't working out, be prepared to call it a day. If you regret it later, you can always go back with a counter offer.

Consumer rights 
Buying a used car from a trader is not different to buying other goods - the product (i.e. the car) must be:

  • Of satisfactory quality
  • Fit for purpose
  • As described

If not, then it's likely to be legally faulty and you should get in touch with the seller as soon as possible. It's their responsibility to repair it, replace it - or even give you a full refund.