What to look for when buying a used car

When it comes to buying a second-hand car, there’s a lot to think about. What age car should you buy? Is it best to buy from a dealer, private seller, online marketplace or auction? Here’s the lowdown on all your options and some thoughts on how to make the right decisions for you.

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Should you buy a used or new car?

The allure of a brand-new car is irresistible for some. But for many of us, buying a used car is the wisest option as it offers much better value for money. New cars cost more than their second-hand equivalents and will also depreciate at a much faster rate. If a new car is out of your price range and you don’t mind not driving the latest model, buying a used car is a sensible choice that could save you thousands of pounds.

 

There are many routes to buying a car – which is the best one for you will depend on several factors, including budget and personal preference. It’s a good idea to research all your options so you can be comfortable with the route you choose. Let’s consider those choices.

People negotiating next to cars

Buying a used car from a dealer

Buying a used car from a dealer

Buying a used car from a dealer

Franchised dealerships usually specialise in one single manufacturer and sell both new and used cars. While this is usually the most expensive way to buy a car, it is also the most secure: you can benefit from robust consumer protection in the form of a decent warranty and a thorough vehicle inspection (inside and out), as well as the peace of mind that comes from dealing with experts. Franchised dealerships only sell high-quality, relatively young cars (usually less than three years old).

Independent dealers have no affiliation with any one manufacturer, meaning that they can sell any brand of used car. Independent dealers or garages can be considerably less expensive than franchises because the majority of their stock is likely to be older; they are likely to have a wider range of cars to choose from than franchised dealers and therefore offer greater choice. This is helpful if you are unsure of what car you are looking for.


Any respectable dealer or garage should subject all its vehicles to rigorous checks before selling them on. It’s important to do your research on any potential independent garage or dealer and check online reviews to find out about their services and reputation before you give them your business.

Your rights when buying a used car

If something is wrong with your used car, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you certain rights, including the right to ask for a full refund in the first 30 days after buying any product that proves to be faulty.

Your rights when buying a used car

If something is wrong with your used car, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you certain rights, including the right to ask for a full refund in the first 30 days after buying any product that proves to be faulty.

Buying a used car from a private seller

Buying a used car from a private seller

Buying a used car from a private seller

Buying from a private seller is often more affordable. Firstly, private sellers are usually selling older cars; secondly, the seller isn’t focused on maximising profit for a business, meaning that prices can be very appealing. Buyers can haggle more and sales tend to be quick, although there is very little legal protection for you should you face issues with the car later down the line. Bear in mind too that private sellers aren’t obliged to perform the same checks as franchised dealers so the onus is on you to verify the safety and history of the car.


Although it’s not always possible, some lenders will offer car finance for private sales depending on the circumstances. This is generally offered for an unsecured personal loan, such as the finance that Oodle offer.

Paperwork for buying a used car from private seller

The paperwork involved with buying a used car from a private seller includes a watermarked registration document or
V5C logbook, an MOT certificate, the vehicle handbook and the Service book for a full service history. All of which you should check thoroughly before you choose to buy.

Paperwork for buying a used car from private seller

The paperwork involved with buying a used car from a private seller includes a watermarked registration document or
V5C logbook, an MOT certificate, the vehicle handbook and the Service book for a full service history. All of which you should check thoroughly before you choose to buy.

Driver and vehicle registration certificate
Driver and vehicle registration certificate
Driver and vehicle registration certificate
Car buying options with Oodle logo on a shield

Buying a used car from an online retailer

Buying a used car from an online retailer

Buying a used car from an online retailer

Buying a car online is a convenient option, you can browse large numbers of used cars without having to leave the sofa.

 

Although you won’t be able to take one for a test drive, should you go on to buy a car you find online you may benefit from a ‘cooling off’ period, during which you can return the car for a full refund if you decide it’s not for you.


Online showrooms allow you to browse thousands of used cars, all from hand-picked, approved dealers. You can filter your search according to what matters most to you, whether that’s cost, features, location, make and model, or a combination of the lot, and search at your leisure.

Buying a used car from an auction

Buying a used car from an auction

Buying a used car from an auction

If you know a thing or two about cars then a car auction might be worth a visit, as you could end up walking away with a bargain. However, it’s not an ideal route if you need support and advice as you will have limited chance to inspect any car and no chance of a test drive. If you’re inexperienced, you may benefit from the safety net of a dealership, or from the online buying support that internet retailers like Oodle can provide.

A gavel
A gavel
A gavel
Direction sign

Questions to ask when buying a used car

Whether you’re buying from a dealer or a private seller there are certain questions you should ask to ensure you’re getting a good deal and that you’re completely happy with the car. If you’re buying from a dealership, they should be able to provide proof of an HPI check before selling any vehicle; ask to see the records. If they haven’t, or you are buying privately, we recommend running one yourself.

Why are you selling the car?

Why are you selling the car?

Why are you selling the car?

Can I see the paperwork?

Can I see the paperwork?

Can I see the paperwork?

How many miles has it driven?

How many miles has it driven?

How many miles has it driven?

Are you the registered keeper?

Are you the registered keeper?

Are you the registered keeper?

How many owners has it had?

How many owners has it had?

How many owners has it had?

What to check when buying a used car

What to check when buying a used car

What to check when buying a used car

Check for any outstanding finance. As car finance is one of the most popular ways to buy used and new cars, a significant number of roadworthy vehicles legally belong to finance providers until their customers pay off their agreement in full. If you inadvertently buy a car with unpaid finance from an unscrupulous private vendor, the lender could recover the car.

to be certain of the car’s history before you make a purchase.

An HPI check provides a comprehensive overview of the history of your chosen car, protecting you from buying a vehicle that’s been stolen, written off or seriously compromised. An HPI check includes:

Logbook check

MOT check

Insurance write-off checks 

Checks for any outstanding finance

Recorded as stolen checks

VIN/chassis check 

A guide valuation

The peace of mind that complete vehicle checks provide cannot be overstated – they could help you to negotiate a better price with the seller, too.

What documents do you need to buy a used car?

What documents do you need to buy a used car?

What documents do you need to buy a used car?

The documents you will need to check include:

A watermarked registration document or V5C logbook 

An MOT certificate

The vehicle handbook 

The service book for a full service history

The documents and paperwork you should have with you include:

Driving licence

Insurance policy

Vehicle tax

Payment documents

Proof of your identity and address

Car buying options
Car buying options
Car buying options

Need to find a car?
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Find all the latest listings from Oodle approved dealers

A car with a ribbon

After you’ve bought your car

After you’ve bought your car

After you’ve bought your car

So you’ve bought yourself the car of your dreams – congratulations! Before you drive off into the sunset, here are your final tasks.

01

Get it insured and taxed. You can’t legally drive the car home before you’ve done so (it is easy enough to get quotes beforehand and then authorise them when you’re ready to drive home), so make sure you’ve got this sorted before you get behind the wheel.

02

Read the owner’s manual through and familiarise yourself with your new used car.

03

Get some breakdown cover. If you’ve bought your car from a dealer this may already be included; if not, time to do it now.

Finally: enjoy your car! After all that hard work, you deserve it.

Calculate monthly car finance payments

Calculate monthly car finance payments

Calculate monthly car finance payments

The world of car finance can be a confusing one – but we’re here to help simplify things. Use our car finance calculator to help you decide whether car finance could be a good option for you, without affecting your credit rating. The calculator will give you a good idea of what your monthly payments could look like based on how much you’re looking to borrow.


Don’t worry, you’re not committing to anything; this tool is simply a useful guide to help you figure out a budget that suits you best, before you complete a full application for car finance.

The world of car finance can be a confusing one – but we’re here to help simplify things. Use our car finance calculator to help you decide whether car finance could be a good option for you, without affecting your credit rating. The calculator will give you a good idea of what your monthly payments could look like based on how much you’re looking to borrow.


Don’t worry, you’re not committing to anything; this tool is simply a useful guide to help you figure out a budget that suits you best, before you complete a full application for car finance.

The world of car finance can be a confusing one – but we’re here to help simplify things. Use our car finance calculator to help you decide whether car finance could be a good option for you, without affecting your credit rating. The calculator will give you a good idea of what your monthly payments could look like based on how much you’re looking to borrow.


Don’t worry, you’re not committing to anything; this tool is simply a useful guide to help you figure out a budget that suits you best, before you complete a full application for car finance.

With a personal loan of £10,000 over 12 months and an APR of 13%, the amount payable would be £350.00 a month, with a total cost of credit of £3,004.80 and the total amount payable of £13,54.80.

The total amount payable includes a £50 documents fee.

How much do you want to borrow?

How much do you want to borrow?

£Min

£Min

£Max

£Max

Length of term (months)

Length of term (months)

MinTime

MinTime

MaxTime

MaxTime

Monthly repayments

Monthly repayments

£218.58

£218.58

£218.58

Total borrowed

Total borrowed

£10,000

£10,000

Total cost of credit

Total cost of credit

£3,2956

£3,2956

This is an illustrative example to help you estimate your funding; actual amounts may vary

This is an illustrative example to help you estimate your funding; actual amounts may vary

Buying a used car FAQs

How many miles is too many on the clock?

How many miles is too many on the clock?

How many miles is too many on the clock?

How old is too old for a second-hand car?

How old is too old for a second-hand car?

How old is too old for a second-hand car?

How long does the buying process take?

How long does the buying process take?

How long does the buying process take?

What’s the best used car to buy?

What’s the best used car to buy?

What’s the best used car to buy?

Are car dealers regulated?

Are car dealers regulated?

Are car dealers regulated?

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