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Buying a used car


Find help and information about buying a used car.

It's important to do your homework when buying a used car to avoid buying a vehicle that has been badly damaged, stolen or illegally altered. We've put together some helpful tips which could save you money and stress down the line.

  • Check out the seller, the history and condition of the car before you make a decision.
  • If you don't know much about cars, take a friend who does or consider an inspection by an independent engineer.
  • Watch out for motor traders who pose as private sellers to deny your rights as a consumer. Their details may not appear on the vehicle registration document and they may offer to meet you in a car park or another public space.
  • Check the history of the car, including its mileage with previous keepers, and use online checking services to see if the car has had any major accident damage in the past or if outstanding finance is owed.

Important checks

  • Use the Gov.uk: Check the MOT history of a vehicle checker to see if the car is roadworthy - a MOT certificate is a legal requirement for cars over three years old. 
  • Check the vehicle has not been recalled via DVSA. It may have been recalled due to being unsafe.
  • Get an engineer's check for hidden dangers so you know you're not being misled.
  • Check the service history to ensure the car has been maintained.
  • Check the registered keeper so you know that the car isn't stolen.
  • Test drive the vehicle to ensure it meets your expectations in terms of features and condition.
  • Research the value of the car to ensure you are getting charged a reasonable price.
  • Carry out walk-around checks to look for obvious bumps and scratches.

Print off our Icon for pdf checklist for buying a used car (PDF, 100.1kb)  so you know what to look out for.

Check it don't regret it

Watch the Don't end up like Jimmy: second hand cars video produced by the Citizens' Advice Bureau about the risks of buying a second-hand car.

North East Trading Standards Association and National Trading Standards have developed the Car Buyer's Guide app to help you when buying a used car. The app provides key information to consider when buying a used car, including MOT evaluations, things to look out for, and legal rights. You can download the app for free from the Apple store (iOS version suitable for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) or from the Google Play store (for Android smartphones and mobile devices).

Consumer enquiries

For consumer advice about a vehicle you are considering buying or have already bought, please read the Citizens Advice Consumer Guide or contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0345 404 0506.

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