My car buying checklist

By  | September 3, 2011 | Filed under: Living in the UK

Inspect car in daylight on seller’s premises.


  • All electrics work
  • Upholstery/leather
  • Seats springy, comfortable
  • Smell
  • Controls, dashboard
  • Pedal rubber
  • Boot (rust, spare wheel)
  • Evidence of water entry


  • Tyres
  • Bodywork (dents, scratches, repaint, rust)
  • Level – no sag
  • Glass
  • Wheel rims
  • Lights
  • Security
  • Leaks – check seals around doors and boot
  • Forced entry
  • Petrol cap forced and replaced
  • Suspension – push down bonnet and car should bounce no more than twice
  • Check ground under car for evidence of leaked fluid


  • Battery newish
  • Rust, damage, dents
  • Water entry
  • Wiring, fluids, belts, hoses, radiator
  • Check beneath stickers


  • Vehicle registration document (V5c)
    – DVLA watermark visible within layers of paper
    – Check number plate
    – Check engine number
    – Check VIN (17 characters, bodywork below bonnet, engine compartment, floor panel on driver’s side). Q means age unknown, may be imported or rebuilt from parts. Uneven or evidence of alteration?
  • Service history
  • MOT certificate
  • Duration of last few periods of ownership
  • Warranty
    – duration
    – what does it cover
  • What checks has dealer done?
    – HPI (car data check – accident?) or AA?

Test drive

  • Start car from cold. Should start immediately.
  • Exhaust – accelerate hard
    – Should not be excessive noise.
    – Should be moderate white clear steam. It should not be oily.
  • Temperature gauge should settle at midway.
  • Steering wheel should turn smoothly from full lock to full lock without banging or knocking.
  • Try to drive with the handbrake on.
  • Clutch should bite between middle and top of travel.
  • Reverse quickly and stop accelerating and it shouldn’t fall out of gear.
  • Use all gears.
  • Drive on every surface.
  • Brake sharply.
  • Turn tightly.

Don’t pay cash.

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