Buying a used Car Privately – Full Checklist

When you’re shopping for a vehicle privately and you have determined the time is proper to purchase a car, there are numerous questions you want to clear. There are a lot greater concerns to take into account.

When buying a used vehicle, you won’t have the same level of safety as if you bought it from a dealer, so knowing what questions to ask and what to look for is critical. If you’re shopping privately, you’ll be responsible for recognizing all of these problems. The seller doesn’t have to give a lot of information, it’s up to you to ask the proper questions.

If you’re reading this article, this will assist you to purchase with self-belief and get the proper deal too. You can view how to deal with negotiations and your buyer’s rights.

Used car Checklist

Buying from a most important dealer’s used authorized scheme is the most secure and easiest approach. An easy step guidelines information ought to assist you in the proper path and make certain that you get the good value for cash on your subsequent used car.  

Engine of the used car

The engine is the heart of the car, and while they put up with massive wear and tear, the internal components, and the tight tolerance, they function under means maintenance is essential. You can take a look at it for leaks. If you see any moist spots on the ground, possibly move the used car and see if they have come from the engine. Check for any odd noises when the engine is started from the cold.

  • Does the oil warning light go out as quickly as the engine starts? 
  • Any symptoms of immoderate exhaust emissions?
  • Does the clutch function normally? A noise when you press the pedal or an excessive biting factor ought to suggest that repairs will be required soon.
  • Is the catalytic converter in the right condition? Look for the latest emissions test, both by yourself or as a section of an MOT. This will verify that emissions are within the limits 
  • Is the oil level right? Too low shows neglect; too excessive ought to be a clue that the engine’s usage of oil, however, it could have been overfilled in error.
  • Has the cam belt been changed by the service schedule?

Leaks from the used car

Many exclusive fluids run in, round, and underneath the engine, and a well-maintained used car shouldn’t have a leak.

Open the bonnet and test all around the engine for different leaks. Oil leaks are normally brown or, if the engine oil is old, black, however, different fluids are susceptible to seeping out. Coolant (also acknowledged as antifreeze) is normally green, pink, or yellow while gearbox and power steering fluid are reddish-brown. Gearbox fluid is pretty thick, and power steering fluid is thinner.


If the fluids are severely low or empty, it should point out that the preceding owner had not considered the car. Or the fluid levels haven’t been taken care of correctly during its ownership.

Checking the oil is prevalent in vehicle renovation and shouldn’t be forgotten at some stage in the shopping process. Ascertain that the dipstick reading is correct and that the oil is not discoloured or of incorrect consistency. While you’re there, additionally seem for time-honoured dust and dirt protecting any connectors, as this ought to spotlight a poorly maintained or serviced vehicle.

Head gasket of the used car

The head gasket is a thin part that sits between the lower and upper components of the engine (also referred to as the engine block and the cylinder head) and prevents coolant or engine oil from coming into the engine’s cylinders.

A blown head gasket has begun to leak. Many issues like a smoky exhaust, a rough-sounding engine, loss of power, or complete engine failure, can occur so it’s essential to check.

Check if the engine is cool and dispose of the oil cap from the top of the engine. If you see white or mild brown sludge with the consistency of mayonnaise, you’re probably searching for a blown head gasket. At that point, it’s likely really worth strolling away from the deal, as it’s tough to be aware of what different damage the hassle has caused.

Exhaust smoke from the used car

Switch on the engine and walk towards the back of the used car. A little puff of smoke when starting an engine is typically nothing serious, however, watch the exhaust for a few minutes as it’s a signal of a hassle if it remains.

Blue smoke shows that the engine is burning oil. It shows the oil is getting into the cylinders. It should point out a blown head gasket or troubles with the inner engine seals. White smoke can be more difficult to spot as it’s without difficulty careworn with steam – a frequent expulsion when the auto is first started, especially on mornings. Excessive white smoke can additionally point to a head gasket failure, however this time it’ll be coolant coming into the cylinders and being burned with fuel. Black smoke is typically prompted by way of the engine burning too much fuel. 

Checking the gearbox and clutch of the used car

Manual and automated gearboxes are available, however, there are different sorts of automated gearboxes that can behave differently. Whatever gearbox the vehicle has, it has to engage with all gears easily and quietly. If it doesn’t there’s a problem.

In a manual used car, the clutch biting point – the factor that you sense the vehicle begins to go when releasing the clutch pedal – ought to be around the center of the pedal’s travel. If you have to push your foot all to the floor, the clutch needs attention. It may want to be as easy as an adjustment, or a pricy replacement. If the vehicle has a manual mode, operated both using steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles and a manual operation on the gearstick, attempt it out to make sure it works correctly. Even though some motors include a ‘gear shift’ feature that simulates the motion of changing gear, it’s important to realize that CVT gearboxes don’t virtually alternate gear. You ought to be in a position to change gears easily. Resistance or grinding noises additionally indicate a problem.

Used Car bodywork checks

Checking the bodywork is one of the best visible inspections you can do while searching for a used car. Essentially, you’re looking out for any symptoms of repainting or substitute panels that may recommend the model has been in an accident. Check for panel gaps, and the door seals for manageable leaks, as well. 

You must check thoroughly the used car thoroughly, outside, underneath, and, the place possible, inside. Old repairs aren’t always an awful component as long as they’ve been completed properly. They can even assist to construct an image of the car’s past. Check for rust on all metallic physique panels. Rust will begin and the rusty bubbling beneath the paint will begin, but if left unchecked, the paint will be pushed off and eventually rust through, thus it’s worth getting it fixed. Untreated stone chips and scratches can set off the rust.

 Pay unique interest to the car’s wheel arches, especially the edges of the lips inner the wheel arches, as water, salt, street grime, and grit can all be a reason to rust. And additionally, take a look at the car’s sills – the panels that run below the doorways on each side. In vivid daylight, test the physique panels are of a uniform colouration and appear for proof of ‘overspray’ on glass, rubber seals, and plastic trims. Pay exclusive interest to the front and rear of the car, as this is the place low-speed shunts regularly occur. 

Checking the wheels and tires of the used car

Check all 4 wheels, plus the spare wheel if it has one. Look for traces of damage. Another element to possibly test out is the inflation of the tires. When you go to check out a used car, it’s beneficial to carry alongside a torch so you can take a look at the wheels, brake thickness, brake pads, and brake disks. If these are low, that’s fine, however, you must negotiate for the car to cover the value of replacements.

They need to be free from cuts, splits, gouges, or bulges; if you see any, they need to be replaced. The tread has to be at least 1.6mm deep around the total tire. 

Interior used car checks

The situation of cars indoors can assist to point out whether or not the mileage is genuine. An automobile with 20,000 miles on the clock must have an interior that’s nearly new – if it’s worn-out, mainly the steering wheel, seat bases, and side bolsters, the owner should be hiding something. The situation of the interior of a used car is additionally another top indicator of whether or not the mileage is genuine. 

Check for holes drilled in the dashboard, sagging roof lining, etc. A smoker’s automobile may be susceptible to burns in the seats too. Check all vital components like the gear works, from the lights to airflow machine (or air-con), to all-electric features such as the windows, sunroof, radio, and central locking. ABS light and the airbag light have to illuminate and off when the engine is started. If you’re glad about the condition, that’s fine, however, if you’re not, haggle some cash off the rate to pay for repairs.

Mileage and warning lights of the used car

 Hop into the driver’s seat and flip on the ignition. This will enable you to test for any warning lights, plus verify that the used car’s mileage is as advertised. Does the mileage, age, and look of the vehicle seem consistent? Look at the ‘clocked’ motors – pedals, seats, and gearstick inconsistent with the odometer are all symptoms of the claimed mileage having been tampered with. 

Electronics in the used car

Used cars are increasingly more loaded with technology. Lights are arguably the most essential digital system on your vehicle, so make sure they’re working properly. Fogged lenses or uneven beams must all be warning signs, while a dim beam will suggest you’ll want to change bulbs soon. Also test that the radio, infotainment system, local weather control, and any different devices work as advertised.

Locks, windows, and ordinary controls

Do all the locks, central locking, far-off control, radio/CD, navigation work properly? Check all windows, together with any sunroof. Check for signs of forced entry, broken or special locks.

Have you acquired all the proper keys? Check the instruction manual to see which keys have been furnished when the car used to be new. 

Warning lights on the used car

Keep an eye on the dashboard as you do this and make sure there are no warning lights on, and no warning lights show up for the duration of the drive.

Glass of the used car

See if there are any chips in the windscreen. This should lead to an MOT failure, and a crack too.

Check for repairs

Take some time searching over the bodywork. Can you see any dents or scratches? Sometimes if they’re minor they should wear and tear, however, you want to keep an eye on any panel gaps.

Boot of the used car

It’s usually well worth checking the boot to see if it will be appropriate for your needs. Another component to have to appear for in the boot is a spare wheel. If it has a spare wheel, is it in true condition? It’s also appropriate to take a look at the rear seat folding mechanism that works desirable and offers you the area you require.

Under the bonnet of the used car

Another necessary location to test when shopping for a used automobile is underneath the bonnet. There must be no holes or leaks in the bonnet or leaks when the engine is running. To take a look at the shock absorbers, push down into the bonnet and release. If the car bounces after you’ve accomplished this, that potential the shock absorbers are worn.

Exterior of the used car

View a used car in daylight so that it can’t conceal dents, scratches, or rust. Make certain you take a look at that the color of the panels does not differentiate from every other. If the used car does have some cosmetic damage, however, everything else is fine, you may additionally be in a position to negotiate a higher fee with the seller.

When inspecting the car’s exterior, double-check the front and rear windscreen for any cracks or small chips, as these may want to increase and lead you to change the windscreen.

Test driving a used car

With the visible exams done, the subsequent key step is to take a look at the drive. Surprisingly, many consumers don’t take this option, however, it is a must. Any desirable provider will be glad to accompany you on a drive. Try the car at a range of speeds, and hear out for the engine noise and any nerve-racking rattles. Is the handbrake effective? Check for the steering vibration or any kind of pull to one side? Make sure that the brakes and clutch are in full working order and responsive. Drive for at least 15 minutes on exceptional sorts of road.

You must check your car insurance plan coverage to know whether or not you have DOC cover and can drive the automobile with the owner’s permission. Consult a specialist before buying.

Check the car’s important points with the DVLA

Use our free vehicle checker to confirm the seller’s facts. 

Check the MOT and history

You need to check that MOT tests have been performed commonly during the car’s history. A vehicle may not need an MOT if it was once unused for a duration of time and used to be registered as SORN (statutory off-road notification). You can check a vehicle’s MOT history for free using our free mot check tool

Used car-documentation

A service book is a precious report too. This will inform you if the automobile has been written off, is the problem to incredible finance, or has been recorded as stolen. 

The tests are cheap, take simply a few minutes to complete, and provide huge peace of mind.



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