Buying a used car is a cheaper, and often easier, alternative to buying a brand new one. This is particularly true for first-time drivers, who can find it difficult to afford a brand new motor, as well as get a decent break on their car insurance.

A second-hand car means that repairs are far less expensive and the odd ding here and there doesn’t seem quite as catastrophic as it would if you’d pranged a shiny new set of wheels.

Nonetheless, used cars do have potential complications. There are plenty of horror stories out there about people who have been swindled and sold near-death traps by shady used car dealers. Therefore, it’s important you don’t waste your money on a heap of junk or endanger your safety.

Before shaking hands on a used car, there is a wide range of questions you should be asking to make sure your new motor will go the distance. Here are just a few of the essential questions to put forward:

“Can I take it for a test drive?”

If you are buying from a registered dealer, you’re almost certainly going to be offered a test drive. However, if you are buying from a private seller, this might not be offered to you; that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask to give your potential new wheels a spin before paying.

You need to make sure that everything works properly, that the car is comfortable for you to drive, handles well and is safe. Once you’ve signed on the dotted line, it’s far too late to find out the car has a problem.

“Can I see all the necessary documents?”

It is vital you see all the documents relevant to the car to ensure you know the full history – don’t accept copies of them, you need the original documentation. Make sure the registration document is watermarked to show it is official, not a forgery. It’s also a good idea to check for spelling mistakes on the documents for the same reason.

Ask the seller to show you the V5C registration document – without it, you won’t be able to tax the car. You should also check that the license plate matches the V5C and that the seller is the registered owner; if they aren’t, you should ask why they are selling the car on behalf of someone else.

The MOT certificates are also essential; if the car is over three years old, it is a legal requirement for it to have an MOT.

“How many miles on the clock?”

Always check the car’s mileage to make sure it has increased at a reasonable pace.

“Can I see proof of identity and ownership?”

If you are buying a second-hand car from a private seller, you need to ensure that the seller is the legal owner of the vehicle in question. The last thing you want is to purchase a stolen vehicle. Check the seller’s home address is the same as the one on the V5C document.

“Can I have a good look at the interior?”

Much like buying a house, an internal viewing is highly recommended. Check everything from the electrical wiring to the state of the upholstery and seat belts. A thorough inspection of the paintwork, windows and tyres is also recommended. You should also test that the windscreen wipers, lights and gear shifts work properly.

Once you’ve asked these all-important questions and made a purchase, you’ll be in need of a good car insurance deal. Head over to’s car insurance page to compare policies from some of the UK’s leading insurance providers.

This should not be construed as advice and is for guidance only.