Used car buying: half of drivers ignore these essential checks

AA Cars warns motorists risk surprise bills by failing to carry out simple checks on a vehicle’s condition and past

Only half of used car buyers carry out basic checks on the car they are considering, including checking its MOT status.

A new survey has found that millions of motorists could be leaving themselves open to big garage bills by failing to even scratch the surface of a potential purchase’s history.

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The poll of more than 15,000 drivers by AA Cars found that only 54% bothered to check the MOT paperwork and service history before buying a used car and even fewer bothered to check a car’s finance and insurance status.

A car’s MOT history can expose past issues or potential problems that a seller is keen to downplay and is a useful tool in negotiating a better price. Likewise, a full service history provides a record of key work carried out and gives an indication of how well a car has been cared for.

You should the MOT status and history of any car you are considering buyingYou should the MOT status and history of any car you are considering buying
You should the MOT status and history of any car you are considering buying | Shutterstock

Failing to check either or both of these could lead to nasty surprises further down the road.

Deeper vehicle history checks can also reveal any outstanding finance on a vehicle as well as exposing whether it has been involved in an accident or even written off by insurers, yet only a third of drivers (36%) said they had conducted such a check.

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AA Cars’ CEO James Fairclough commented: “A car is an expensive purchase, but many drivers are parting with their money without carrying out even basic checks.

“Understandably, considering all the recommended checks, most people do not feel very confident about their ability to judge a car’s condition before they drive away.”

The survey also found most drivers didn’t bother carrying out basic physical checks, with only around 40% checking components such as lights, windscreen wipers and tyres were in good working condition. Tyres in a bad condition can present an immediate safety threat, and while changing a headlight in an older car may be fairly straightforward modern cars often feature complex sealed units that are costly and difficult to repair.

Mr Fairclough added:  “You should always check the car’s MOT certificates and its full service history; together these documents will reveal how well the car has been maintained.

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“Some other checks, such as ensuring windscreen wipers and lights are working properly, are easy for drivers to carry out.

“However, we always recommend drivers book a professional vehicle inspection before parting with their money. Other ways to protect yourself include buying from a dealer rather than a private seller, which gives consumers protection under the Consumer Rights Act. Getting a warranty is another way to protect yourself from any potential costly repairs in the future.”

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