Buying a car today is a relatively straight forward process, however one must take into consideration all aspects of the transaction. Remember, the decision you make on the day you purchase your car may have repercussions long after you drive it home, CAVEAT EMPIRE!

One other important point to note is that when  you buy car you may do so with the intention of one day selling it on again, so be careful, the day you buy is also the day you sell.

Outlined in the following short paragraphs is a procedure that everyone should undertake to minimise the risk when buying a new or second hand car. Most of the time such transactions are perfectly cosier and no problems arise. However, considering the fact that a new car can fetch quite a considerable amount of money it would be worth your while to approach this transaction with aa reasonable degree of scepticism. 

Buying a Car

After the decision has been made to purchase a new car you should first look at your budget. This is not as easy as you think. Many people forget to account for the long term impact of a new purchase such as a car. Depreciation must be taken into account. A new car is very unlikely to sell for the same price at which it was bought, have you taken this into account?
If you are trading in an old car a trade-in price always sounds very attractive, however make sure you calculate the “cost of changing”- this is the overall amount of money that will leave your pocket.
Finance. How are you going to finance a new car?
Trade In
Personal Loan
Car Loan
Finance Deal
Credit Card
Car Running Costs. The overall cost of running a new car must be factored into your decision. Have you considered:
Cost of insurance
Road Tax and CO2 emissions
NCT Testing
Fuel Economy
Servicing and spare parts.
When buying insurance, take your time. It can be worth your while to shop around and compare prices. The financial regulators website contains information on motor insurance, as well as other financial products. If you would like to compare insurance quotes, motor insurance or otherwise, visit
Remember, if you are buying privately, a private seller will not be able to provide a finance plan like a dealership can.
Be very cautious of so called “Car Matching Schemes”. Some car websites offer a “service” whereby they will call you claiming to have several people interested in buying your car but request a fee for passing them on to you.  You may find that many do not give any form of written guarantee and you should always be extra vigilant while using this service.


When you buy from a dealership, you should ensure that they are an established trader with a good reputation. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their business.
Ask if they are a member of a trade association
Do they have an established Code of Practice in operation? It is illegal for a seller to mislead consumers as regards any aspect of a Code of Practice 
Do they have a quality guarantee/assurance scheme in place?
What sort of after sales advice do they offer.
Will they provide you with a courtesy car if the car you purchased must be returned for whatever reason?
As with making any purchase it is up to the buyer to exercise a degree of common sense. If this simple rule is not abided by it may weaken your defence if a problem should unfortunately arise.


If you have never been to an auction but wish to purchase a car at an auction, it is advisable that you visit one with the simple intention of familiarising yourself with its procedures.  There is a fee to be paid with the purchase of a car and there is normally no guarantee available unless the manufacturers guarantee is still in effect.
Remember, at an auction a simple scratch of the nose might cost you a new car!

Checking the Condition of a Car

Although it may seem easy when checking the condition of a car you should observe the following simple yet important rules:
Never examine a car at night or in poor visibility
Always view the car in dry conditions – rain can hide scratches and scrapes
Never rush an examination – remember it’s your money
Always meet a private dealer at their home address – be wary of dealers in disguise.
Be prepared. Know the right questions to ask, see Buyer’s Checklist at the bottom.
Always take a test drive to get a feel for the car. Ideally have it checked by a mechanic 
Never be pressurised into buying a car. Remember, there are plenty of new and used cars out there.

Inspecting a car
The following is a detailed procedure for inspecting a car and is summarised in the Buyer’s Checklist below
On the outside of the car [Link to]
The Functions of the car [link to]
Under the bonnet [link to]
Inside the car [link to]

Outside the car, check for:
Visible signs of damage (dents, scrapes, uneven panels)
Any gaps, raised areas, doors out of line, anything out of the ordinary
Are there broken or cracked light clusters, marks on bumpers etc.
Check under the sills and wheel arches for hidden signs of damage – light clusters not the same make could mean that a section was replaced after a crash.
Tyres of a different make as this could be indicative of a replacement after a crash.
Check for leaks on the ground after the car has been stationary for a prolonged period of time. There could be a simple explanation for this, but you want to hear it, ask! 

Functions of the car:
Are all of the lights working properly
Do the doors open properly without creaking, check all the doors
Do the wipers, water jets, sunroof and all other equipment work properly
Is there a tow-bar. Was a tow-bar removed before your inspection? If a tow-bar is or was present, ask what it was used to tow. A large caravan could be damaging to the suspension.

Under the Bonnet:
Check that there is a vehicle identification number (VIN) present in the engine bay which matches the car’s registration documents. This is made up of a combination of letters and numbers. If you can’t find it, ask the seller to point it out to you. If the VIN is absent or has visible signs of being tampered with you should not buy the car. It may have been stolen.
Are there any signs of leaks?
Check the oil with the dipstick for appropriate levels of clean oil.
Are there any strange noises when the engine is running
Are there any signs of spray paint or colours of a different shade in the engine bay as this could be indicative of repair work following a crash?
Are there any signs of unevenly welded metal, this is quite conclusive evidence of repair work following a significant crash and should be brought up with the seller.

Inside the car:
Check any access issues which might relate to you (children, elderly, passengers) making sure that the car meets your individual access requirements.
Adjust the driver seat to suit your driving style and then get out and sit in the rear passenger seat behind the driver. Is there sufficient room?
Check that your view is not obstructed by head restraints or wide pillars
Ask about the condition of the airbags present and any other safety features
3-point centre seat belt in the back
Secure fixing points for a child seat
Anti-lock braking system (ABS) etc.

The Mileage of the car
Check and take a note of the mileage as seen on the cars odometer. Make sure you know whether this is in mile or kilometres. (A rough rule of thumb: 5 miles = 8 kilometres) 
Is the wear and tear on the inside of the car consistent with the mileage?

The Boot
First and foremost ensure that the boot is sufficient for your needs. Beware of a “high lip” as this could make loading difficult.
Check under mats for leaks etc. Any holes present could be indicative of a removed tow-bar.
Check that the spare wheel and wheel replacement kit is provided.
IMPORTANT – If the car has alloy wheels ensure that the fob or “key” is provided in order to secure/release the alloys. This will be necessary if you are required to replace a tyre.
Some vehicles carry a “space-saver” tyre. These tyres are smaller than the other wheels that are in use and, as the name obviously suggests, are designed to be more accommodating in relation to space. Most importantly, ensure that you are aware of the restricted speed limit of the tyre as well as any other restrictions. 

Starting the engine
Before you start the engine, check whether or not it is warm from having been “warmed up” already by the seller. This might be done in order to mask any problems with the ignition.
Ask if the timing belt has been replaced
If you observe any of the following you should consider terminating the deal
Unusual noises
Unusual smells
Blue smoke emitted from the exhaust (burning oil)

Test Drive
It is always a good idea to test drive the vehicle. However this may not be possible when buying at an auction. A test drive is likely to point out any major faults that the car has that would have been otherwise masked when the car is stationary. When conducting a test drive:
Try and drive over a reasonable distance, testing different road surfaces as you do (country roads/in-town/motorway)
Make sure that you have the appropriate insurance before setting off on a test drive – your policy might not cover a test drive – ask your insurance provider
Turn off the radio and ensure that you observe anything and everything about the car and ensure that you are comfortable in the cabin using all of the car’s functions.
Consumer protection when buying a new car.
Every consumer has legal rights when making a purchase from an individual or organisation acting in the course of their business. These rights are laid out in legislation which also gives them the right to take legal action if their rights are neglected.  However, the same rights do not apply to buying a car privately as a private seller is not acting in the course of their business.

Duties of the buyer

Remember, the buyer must exercise common sense when entering into a transaction such as the purchase of a new/used car. CAVEAT EMPIRE! If this simple rule is not abided by any defence on the part of the consumer which may arise as the result of a dispute may be weakened. As long as you ask the right questions, get the answers in writing and know your consumer rights (below) it will be obvious that you have exercised due caution and common sense if it is ever called into question.

Duties of the seller

It is the duty of the seller to abide by the relevant consumer protection legislation including, but not limited to:
The Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980
Under the provisions of this act, goods sold must be:
Of merchantable quality (taking into account product description, age, product history etc.)
As described in product descriptions (e.g. a car described as being a grey colour must be a grey colour – simple yet vital)
Fit for the purpose intended

Some Last minute tips:

Dealers in Disguise!

When buying a car from a private individual you should always check that they are not, in fact, a dealer trying to sell privately. In this instance the dealer might be trying to deny you your consumer rights. 
One small trick can help eliminate this risk when buying privately. When you ring a private individual about a new car, simply inquire about “the car” (e.g. “Hi, I’m ringing about the car advertised in the paper”). If this individual asks you to be more specific it may be because he/she a dealer trying to sell his/her car privately.
It is a breach of consumer legislation to sell a car in this way.

Trading-in vs. Private sale

Generally speaking you should get a better price for your car if you sell it privately however this can be time consuming and awkward and can be quite troublesome if a problem arises. 

Trade-in Values

When trading in your vehicle, always research its current price online. Compare your car to other similar models (of the same condition) so that you have an idea of what you will be offered for your vehicle.
Quit yo’ jibba jabba fool! Don’t be fooled by jargon.  Nearly new, pre-owned, ex-lease, demonstrations etc. all mean the same thing: used. CAVEATE EMPIRE!

When it comes to buying a second hand car from a private individual you do not have the same 
The team at safetrader hopes that this information will reduce the risks to you in your transaction.
Happy motoring!