How To Buy A Second-hand Car? The Research

A second-hand Ford Capri with a sketchy past?

Buying a used car is a great idea, as you’ll be able to get your hands on an awesome vehicle at often a fraction of the price you would buying it new. However, buying a new car can seem like a daunting prospect with brand, model and more to consider. With the second-hand car route you’ll have to consider even more such as service history, condition and value to ensure that you end up we a great deal.

Having a structured approach when buying a second-hand car can help you sift through the large offering of cars in a more efficient way. If you have not, already, a preference for a certain car brand and model we would suggest starting off your research with deciding what type of car you are looking for. Are you most of all looking for a car with plenty of space? Then limit your search to Estate cars, People carriers, SUVs or vans of some kind. Are you rather looking for something a little more sporty? Then, obviously, go for a sports car but don’t dismiss many of the hot hatches, or even hot estates, which combine practical with fun.

Once you have decided on the type of car you prefer then it’s time to consider which manufacturer to go for and consider some practicalities. The web can help here massively, sites like or have large databases with information of most cars made in the last few years, useful if you buy a recent second-hand car. Best of all, you can put the cars side by side and compare the cars on a number of parameters. Usually, the practicalities you would be interested in are the engine sizes, fuel economy, boot space, weight and speed. On top of that the more in-depth reviews give more, subjective, information on the feel of the car, the way it handles and quality of the materials used in the car. It will give you a good idea about the car being a worthwhile prospect. You wouldn’t want to end up with a car that might be great in terms of fuel economy but handles inadequately and is made using unreliable components, would you?

Once you have selected a couple of models (from different brands) put them on a list and go and try to see each model in real life. Check for the practicalities mentioned earlier, like space, materials and ergonomics of controls. This should give you a good feeling of which car suits you best and which car you should then pursue.

Once you have found the model of your choice don’t just jump at the first good deal that comes along and buy the car, instead find a couple of examples of the same model on sale and go and see them. You might find that one car is way better than another, sometimes even at a better price. Some might not have been maintained very well, others might have done a huge number of miles others might start heading into the direction where major components start to wear out and would have to be replaced or rebuild.

Just think of an expensive cam belt or a camshaft change, or a gearbox rebuild. All things you want to avoid, unless you’re happy to put lots of money into a car you just bought. Importantly, don’t dismiss the small issues either, they can quickly turn into rather larger issues. Just think of a tiny leak in the interior, the dampness can quickly cause parts of the interior to go mouldy. You will find that there are always better cars out there with less work for a similar or even better price. It might take some extra time, but buying wisely can save you lots of Pounds in the long run, not to mention many headaches.

Having found a couple of cars you like it’s time for a test drive (more on that in our next post in this series). That said, if the seller does not allow you a test drive, then turn round and walk away, very quickly indeed. The seller will have something to hide, or he just doesn’t want to sell you the car, of course. It might be that you do not have the confidence to have a go at buying a car on your own. In that case our mechanics are always there to help you, consider a pre-purchase inspection with one of our mechanics.


About Kurt Schleier

Resident classic car enthusiast and blogger at Clickmechanic.

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