Top Car Buying Tips

Top Car Buying Tips

by Jonathan Clensy |
posted 02 October 2017

It's always good to know what to look for when buying a car and IAM RoadSmart's Head of Technical Policy and Advice, Tim Shallcross has prepared his best top tips for buyers.

Check the 'log book' (V5) against the number (VIN) on the car. If the V5 is not present or the VIN numbers do not match, do not purchase the car.

The V5 does not prove ownership but still check that the person selling it is the person listed on the V5.

Check the mileage and MOT history at If you have any doubts or concerns – walk away.

Whether buying privately of from a dealer always ask for a receipt.

Do your research

Blown turbochargers, snapped timing chains, smoking engines - all these and more can result from delaying an oil change or using the wrong oil.

Ask for the service history and take time to look through it. If a service is due, negotiate on the price, but if the history's missing, walk away.

Dashboard lights are important. Check all the systems such as ABS and stability control. Make sure they all light up when you turn on the ignition and go out after a few seconds or when you start the engine. Check the handbook if you’re not sure you've seen them all.

After starting the engine, listen carefully for the first few seconds – any knocks or rattles are bad signs. Grey exhaust smoke is a sign of a worn engine - check it after your test drive when the engine is hot.

As well as checking the suspension by listening for rattles or clunks over rough roads, try stopping at different rates - gently and rapidly. The engine should never stall as the car stops and the revs shouldn't drop very low and then pick up to the right idle speed.

Reject a car if you have any concerns. Cars are too often an emotional rather than a rational choice. 

If in doubt, sleep on it and make a decision in the morning. Tim said: "Getting a new car, whether it's brand new or new to you, is an exciting time. It's also an expensive time, so the last thing you want is to pick a bad model. Do your preparation before you go so you know what you're looking for. If you're not confident, take a friend, get it checked at a garage, or ultimately walk away."

For additional car buying tips see the Money4yourMotors guide: What Should I Look For When Buying A Car?

Jonathan Clensy
Jonathan Clensy

Jonathan is part of the web development team at Money4yourMotors. With almost 20 years development knowledge he is closely involved with our on-going suite of website upgrades designed to give the best possible user experience to all our customers.