What to Look for in a Second Hand Car

Second Hand Cars - Used Cars Sign

Purchasing a used car can be a great way to save money and also get a great bargain. As you may well know a car can lose up to 40% of its value in the first few years, meaning that with the right research and a bit of luck you could grab a bargain on the second hand market. However, that said there are a number of things to look out for when purchasing a second hand auto that you need to keep an eye out for.


Clocking has become harder with newer cars, however it still occurs. Essentially, it’s winding back the mileage counter or odometer to show less mileage on the car and so ask for a higher price for the auto. Keep an eye out for it as every few thousands of miles clocked is costing you money.


Another unfortunately common issue is car cloning. Cloning involves giving one car another cars identity – you may wonder why? Well, say for instance a car is written off and even if repaired offers a safety risk it may be fixed up and given another cars identity. This means the car, though a danger, is still on the roads under a different cars identity. This is done by giving it new VIN plates, new number plates and making some other changes.

Cut and Shut

The cut and shut occurs when two written off cars, with opposing ends in good condition are welded together to create one car. This is highly illegal, though often hard to detect as the work can be outstanding. A full car data check is the best way to spot any such discrepancies in the car.

How to Spot these Issues

There are a number of ways to spot such issues and to be frank, research is a necessity when purchasing a second hand car. A background check and the honest opinion of a mechanic you know are a must and can showcase underlying problems that can rear their heads down the road and cause serious issues.

Viewing a Car

When you go to view a car don’t do so in the dark or in poor light as you will be unable to see scratches, dents and the real condition of the car.

Check out web forums and websites for common issues with the car and then thoroughly check to see these aren’t problems with the model you are purchasing.

In addition ask for the service history and all the documents that should go with the car. An owner should amass plenty of paper work in the form of MOTs, service history and repairs if they own and care for a car – make sure they have them.

VC5 Registration

The VC5 registration document shows that the person you are buying the car from is the owner. This ensures they are legally allowed to sell the car and aren’t doing you out of money. If there is no VC5 then don’t purchase the car. The VC5 shows previous owners too, so if you wish to contact them you can shed some light on the cars condition. Often people find that second hand cars may have been car hire, frontier car leasing autos, or in some cases even ambulances or police cars – not ideal if you want a car that has been treated well.


If you do decide to purchase then have a mechanic look around the car, take a look at the engine and cam belt and take account of the car’s condition. In addition take it for a long test drive to ensure it’s suitable, comfortable and fits your needs. If so then put in an offer and you may be lucky enough to see it accepted and get a new auto.

About The Author: Cormac Reynolds is a writer and a journalist and has written for a whole host of auto sites. He has purchased numerous second hand cars in his time.

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