Top Tips for Buying a Used Car

By Barlo Motors ThurlesFeb 04, 2019

Buying a used car doesn’t have to be a daunting process. In fact, if you use some of these top tips, you could end up getting yourself a great deal. The first important task is to narrow your options down to a shortlist of potential models. You may be just looking to upgrade a few years, or you might need to find a different type of car due to changes in circumstance, like a longer or shorter commute or the need for more space with a growing family.

What will the car be used for?

When drafting your shortlist of potential vehicles to consider, it’s worthwhile to sit down and work out just how you’re going to use your next car. Leave any emotional factors like a car’s design or styling aside for now; you need to put your sensible hat on. Do you need more luggage space or additional seating? Maybe you need a car that can carry a higher number of booster or child seats. Working out how much you’re going to use it and over what average distances should also be a factor to consider.

test driving a used carTake a Test Drive:

Taking more than one example of the model you’re considering for a test drive will give you a clearer indication of whether there’s anything wrong with it. Always test drive a car before sitting down to make a deal on it.

If you’re going to take a car out from a dealership you will typically be covered by its motor trade policy. However, don’t just assume that this is the case, ask for confirmation and whether you need to be accompanied by a member of staff or not. Don’t be afraid to ask for details on this. Even though the staff may conduct test drives all the time, you don’t, so take that extra few minutes to ensure the correct cover is in place. If you were to have an accident, they may try to push liability to your own personal policy.

Similarly, if you are planning to test drive a car that is for sale privately you need to be certain that you are correctly covered. You may have a policy that allows you to drive other cars, but as is often the case, this may insure you for third party only. Calling your insurance provider to arrange a temporary substitution is the best practice, but keep in mind that if you’re planning a test drive for an evening or weekend that their offices may be closed and unable to facilitate this.

With the insurance cover in place, there are a few things that you should try to ensure doing. If possible, drive on roads that are familiar to you. Ideally taking a route on or close to what your daily commute would be. It’s also worth trying to arrange a more extended test drive.

If you’re trying a new type of car, a lot of it is going to be unfamiliar to you at the start. Make sure that you have sufficient levels of adjustment in the seat and steering to get into a comfortable driving position. Buttons and other switchgear may be in different locations than your car so take a moment to try to see where everything is before driving.

Find a clear and straight section of road and loosen your grip slightly on the wheel to see if the car is pulling to one side or another. It should track straight. Similarly, also do this while braking. If it's moving to one side, the wheel alignment may be out. It could be a simple fix, but, be aware that it may be a more serious issue. Afterwards park the car up and turn the wheel fully from lock to lock, listening out for any irregular sounds. Use this opportunity to check for any uneven tyre wear, as this may also indicate an issue with the car’s tracking.

Take a Good Look Around the Car:

Check under the bonnet when buying a used carMost of the time when you’re viewing a car that's for sale it will be quite clean. Nevertheless, do have a thorough look at all the panels and bodywork. You want to be on the lookout for anything that may indicate if the car has been repaired, possibly as the result of an accident. For example, if black plastics on the rear bumper are slightly faded from age but those on the front are shiny and newer looking the car may have had a new bumper fitted. Minor repairs aren't an issue, especially if they've been carried out correctly, but it's better to know everything about the car before you buy.

The car’s paintwork should be all one consistent colour. It’s not unusual for a car’s paint to lose some of its sheen over time, but this should be uniform throughout the car’s exterior. Take a look at the panel gaps around the car to see if any spacing or gaps look off. Are they too big, crooked, etc?

Check Under the Bonnet and car:

When you get back from a test drive, pop open the bonnet and give it a quick visual inspection. You don’t need to be a mechanic, just look out for any areas that indicate any leak or fluid loss. Then have a look underneath to see if there are any drops of oil coming from the car. Most smartphones nowadays have a bright LED torch on them, so this may help. Look to make sure that the overall impression is that someone has looked after the vehicle and also check whether any bolts that run along the inside have been removed at some time.


Be just as Thorough Inside:

Take a few moments to take a good look at the interior of the car. Check that every button and switch is functioning correctly, including air-conditioning, electric windows, lights and the stereo.

If a car has recently had a dead battery or it has been replaced, some modern cars may require a radio code to be inputted to reactivate the stereo. Should this be the case, it may be a sign that something has been done with the car. Ensure that the radio code is present, as if it isn’t it can be a further expense to get it from an authorised garage. This code may already be present in the car's handbooks, so look for these too.

It’s also a good idea to check that the seats can be adjusted in whatever way they’re meant to, especially in the case of electrically adjustable ones. For cars that have heated seats check that this function is also operating correctly.

Check wear and tear on the steering wheel and gear lever, are they commensurate with the age and mileage of the vehicle?

Finally, pay close attention to any warning lights or symbols that may be present on the instrument display. It may be the case that something simple like a brake or headlight bulb is gone, but if there’s a more serious one such as engine management or airbag warning lights on, it’s best to walk away.

Do a History Check or ask the dealer to see their check:

If you’ve narrowed in on a specific vehicle that you’re keen to buy it is important that you do a background check on it. Most reputable car history websites such as can confirm details of a vehicle such as the chassis (VIN) numbers, last recorded mileage and any information relating to whether the vehicle has a previous history of being a write-off. These reports don’t cost much money and can be done quickly using only the registration number of the vehicle. Given the money that you’re going to spend on the car, it is well worthwhile doing this check for added peace of mind if nothing else. If you are looking at an imported vehicle, make sure that you carry out 2 independent checks and if there are any niggles, walk away.

Make sure the Paperwork is Right:

When completing the purchase, it's a good idea to have a checklist prepared in advance. You want to ensure that you're getting any spare keys that come with the car and the necessary motor tax discs, assuming the vehicle is currently taxed. Take a good look through the Vehicle Licensing Certificate (VLC) for the car to double check that the details match.

Why Choose us?

Here at Barlo Motors Thurles, we prepare our vehicles to an exceptionally high level. Everything from the tyres, brakes, engine etc are all checked and if there are any issues, they are rectified prior to being collected by the new owner.

We also pride ourselves that all the necessary checks have taken place, such as full HPi checks to make sure that there are no blemishes on the vehicles record, nor, any outstanding financial issues. We make sure that the vehicle has not been in any collisions resulting in a total loss claim and also, we make sure that the mileage displayed is the correct mileage for the vehicle.

Don’t make a lottery out of buying a pre-owned car, you work too hard for your money to risk it on a vehicle that is not right. Remember, if it is too good to be true, it more than likely is. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to read the latest ramblings from your local Sales Manager, James Mc Vicker at Barlo Motors in Thurles.

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