Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.

Checklist for Getting Secondhand Car

Secondhand cars have their benefits – whether you want to escape that fixed monthly payments or you can only afford it at its depreciated price.

Finding a secondhand car with good quality poses a “buyer’s risk” so it takes a careful research and observation skills. 

From helpful tips on how to know if a car is stolen to alteration on the mileage, GoBear provides the essential list of questions to ask and items to check when you’re looking at a car.

Do Your Research

Before going to the secondhand shop, research about the car’s resale value in the market. This helps you know if the car you’re trying to buy is overpriced or not.

Check the Documents

It’s important to pay close attention to the details of the car you’re going to buy. Here are some of the things you need to ask when checking the document:

– The V5C Document. If there’s no V5C registration document you will not be able to tax the car.
– Registered name on the V5C. (Is the name of the seller the same as on the document?)
– Does the registration document have a watermark?
– Are there any spelling mistakes on the registration document?
– Do the VIN (vehicle identification number), engine number, and color match the V5C?
– Does the plate number match the V5C?
– Has the VIN plate been tampered with?
– Is there any sign of scratches on glass to remove etched-in marks?
– Does the fuel filler look as if it has been forced or replaced?

Check the Mileage

The higher the mileage, the more parts you will need to replace. Get a copy of the car’s periodic maintenance schedule to know what you’re getting into. 

Things you need to check when checking the mileage:

– Do the mileage, age, and appearance of the car look consistent?

– Check the recorded mileage on service records, MOT certificates, and other documents.
– Does it look consistent with current mileage/condition and increase steadily year on year?

– Any sign like worn screws that might have been tampered with?

Check the Safety

It’s important to know if your car is safe in case something unforeseen happens. Here are the things you need to inspect:

– Are the tires in good condition as well as the specification and dimensions? If the tires are less than 3mm of the tread, they should be replaced soon.
– Does it come with a spare tire or tire inflator/sealant kit? Is it in a serviceable condition?
– Are the jacks and other tools present?
– Do the seatbelts operate correctly? Inspect the seatbelts for cuts or fraying that could affect the way they work.
– Do the airbags fit? Check the warning lights if they operate the same in the handbook – it should work with the ignition.
– Are all the lights and windscreen wipers/washer in good working condition?

Inspect the Locks, Windows, and General Controls

– Check the locks, including the central lock and remote control if they’re all working well.
– Check the windows, as well as any sunroof if they open or close normally.
– Check for damaged, different or forced entry locks that suggests it has been replaced.
– Check the handbook to see if the keys given to you were the keys provided when it was bought.
– Check if the locking wheel nuts fits and the special adaptor required is included with the tool, while on it, make sure it fits.
– Check if all the minor controls operate correctly – the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, radio/cd, navigation etc.

Going for a Test Drive

Things to check when you’re doing a test drive:

– If the warning lights operate normally. The lights usually come on to test, if the lights don’t go out then there’s something wrong with
– The brakes if they’re effective or if it takes a lot of effort/takes a long time to stop.
– If the car pulls to one side.
– If there are unusual noises when you brake.
– If the brakes are effective.
– If there are any steering vibration or pull to one side.
– If the ABS is fitted and the warning light goes out after the engine starts.

Check the Engine

Things to check on the engine of the car: 

– If there are abnormal noises when the engine is started from cold.
– If the oil warning light goes out as soon as the engine starts.
– If there are any signs of excessive visible exhaust emissions.
– If the clutch operates normally. If there are noises when you press the pedal or a high biting point then you will need to repair it soon.
– If the catalytic converter is in good condition. Find a recent emissions test, whether it’s alone or part of an MOT.

-If there is sludge on the underside of the oil filler cap. This might indicate poor servicing or mainly used for short journeys.
– If the oil levels are right. The low level shows neglect and high levels show that the engine is using oil but it might have been overfilled by mistake.
– If the cambelt has been replaced according to the service schedule.

While you can save a lot from buying a secondhand car, it takes a keen eye to get a good quality of the car. By following this checklist, you can ensure that the car you’re buying is true to its worth. 

Next, head to to compare and choose car insurance to protect your new ride.

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms.

Questions and responses on are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site