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How do I choose a used car

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  • 16-03-2021
How do I choose a used car

Are you looking for information about how to choose a used car in Hampshire? Read these Top Tips from our Dealership experts to help you make the right choice when purchasing your next quality used car.

Top Tips for Selecting a Used Car

There are many advantages to choosing to buy a used car over a brand new car. The price of used car buying compared to new cars is one obvious benefit - new cars will almost always cost you more cash than used cars, especially if you need to finance it. 

However, if you're thinking of spending less money on your insurance, most insurance companies base their appraisals on the vehicle model rather than history. Choosing the right used cars to buy can be a tricky business, so we're here to offer you our top tips and buying advice for selecting the best-used car.  

Find out the market value

When selecting a used car to buy rather than a new car, the first piece of advice we'll offer is that you should know the latest news about the used car's value before you buy. 

When considering used car buying, you should have a rough idea of the car's value in mind. Online services such as Edmunds.com or Kelly Blue Book can get you reviews and a value for a used car. When considering whether to buy a car, it would be best to get as much information as you can about the car so that these services can give you an accurate price. 

Factors such as the car's condition, year, make, model and mileage will help either of these services provide you with an accurate price. 

This market value can then guide you to a price worth paying for the car through any negotiations when you buy. It will also give you an idea of the car seller's intentions. 

If the car dealer is advertising the car at a price higher than its market value, they may not care whether the car sells or not. Conversely, if the car's price is below market value, then the seller could be keen to get rid of it, and you may have found yourself a brilliant deal.  

Top Tips for Selecting a Used Car

Carefully inspect the car

The next piece of advice we'll offer for buying your next used car is to scrutinize the vehicle. Cars in top condition will be more expensive, while older cars will be worth considerably less. 

It would be best while you're considering a used car if you inspected all the things on and in the car that you can. 

The Interior

Check the interior for any stains or tears in the upholstery or if it's smelling of cigarette smoke. Also, search for any mildew smells inside the car, as these are often hard to detect in cars' interiors. 

We also recommend that you also ensure that the used car is the best fit for you. It would be best if you wanted to sit in the front and back of the car as well, as this will help you choose whether it's the right size for you. 

The Exterior

Check the exterior of the vehicle as well. See if it's dented, scratched or damaged in any way. You can also see if it's received any repair work or had things altered that could affect the used car's price. It is also worth checking under the bonnet of the car and at the exhaust. 

Search for any cracks in the metalwork or other damaged things such as timing belts. It would be best to make yourself aware of any possible damage the used car might have when considering a purchase. 

The Engine 

The engine should be of considerable importance while checking the car. If you can see or smell any oil, then this may be the sign of a leak. Additionally, if there is a burning smell coming from the engine after running it, this may indicate deeper engine problems within the car. 

Even if any damage doesn't completely put you off buying a car, you may be able to get a better price for a worn car than one that appears brand new. If you're unable to find any faults with the used car, this can reassure you that the seller has adequately maintained it, meaning that it's a good used vehicle to buy. 

Do a serious test drive

Our third tip is to take the used car you're considered buying on a test drive. Though this isn't just for fun or for you to make sure that you like the ride, you'll need to conduct essential evaluations while you're driving the car around when assessing the price. 

One of the most important things to check during the test drive when used car buying is to listen to the engine. While it is running, listening carefully to the noises coming from the car's bonnet while on a test drive will let you know of the car's condition. 

It would also be best to pay careful attention to whether it's steering correctly, considering whether the steering wheel and the tires are aligned correctly.

How do I choose a used car?

Other Test Drive Considerations

Additionally, if it is a manual car, instead of an automatic, gauging the gears' smoothness will give you a good idea of the car's condition while on a test drive. 

Other checks to the lights, wipers, windows, and other amenities within the vehicle will also help you choose whether you want to purchase the used car or not. It would also help if you watched for it's warning lights on the dashboard being illuminated and made sure the speedometer, rev counter, and engine fuel gauges all work correctly. 

Get the car checked out by a mechanic

When buying a used car, our next best tip is that you should get a mechanic to check the car thoroughly before you buy. Sometimes called a 'pre-purchase inspection', this is an opportunity for you to have a trained mechanic assess the car thoroughly to help you know the condition of the car you're planning on buying. 

This assessment will cost around £100, but it is well worth the price. Don't wholly rely on the information provided by the car dealer or their mechanic; it's far better to arrange an inspection of the car yourself. Doing this will help make sure you're avoiding a used car with severe faults.

How do I choose a used car? Get it checked by a mechanic

Get the repair history on the car

It would help if you also get access to the used car's repair history. You'll need both the vehicle identification number (VIN) and the car's license plate number to do this. 

Regularly spaced repairs to the car may suggest that the car has been well looked after by the car seller and is therefore in good condition. However, if the car has been through multiple repairs, possibly for the same issue, this may signify a problem. It could even be why the dealer is trying to get rid of their car, so you should be careful. 

Look at the car's age and mileage

Our final tip to help you when buying a used car rather than a new car is to check the car's age and mileage. There is, however, no consensus on which of these two figures is the most crucial when assessing the value when buying a car. 

Regarding the age of a new car, its value will depreciate by 60% on average after the first five years of ownership. After this five year gap for new cars, their depreciation slows down significantly. Given that a car's mileage depends heavily upon its age, mileage doesn't generally come into the car depreciation equation. 

Car Mileage

Generally, your average car will have a mileage of between 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year. Coming down in the middle is your best bet, with 12,500 miles per year being a good gauge of an average car's mileage. This scale will allow you to determine whether the car has done more miles than it should have or whether it is as good as new.

As an example, let's say a car has reached the previously mentioned five-year time scale. If it's around 63,000 miles, then it's at the right age and mileage for a fair determination of its price. Given that 63,000 miles fall within the 12,500 miles per year rubric, the car's mileage is consistent with the average car of its age. 

On the other hand, if the car had done 75,000 miles after five years, this falls outside the scale. Due to this excessive usage, despite it still only being a five-year-old car, this used car's price would be lower.   

Car Mileage and Value

You can also use the car reviews and valuing services we previously mentioned, such as Edmunds.com and Kelly Blue Book when assessing how much the excessive usage of a used car compared to a new car should affect its price. 

Depending on the car's type and model, excessive usage may affect the price in different ways. For example, for popular robust car models, excessive use would not be a big problem. Conversely, if a five-year-old car has only done 25,000 miles, then paying the price for this used car will be much higher. Depending on how much information you can provide about the car to these online services will determine how much of a difference the mileage will make when evaluating the used car's price.


If you live in the Hampshire area, we offer a large selection of fantastic used cars for sale. Follow this link to find out more about our used car sales in Hampshire.