Contacting the sellerThe all-important first phone call to a seller can reveal lots about the car for sale, but only if you ask the right questions.

Don’t be afraid of asking plenty of questions – a few minutes on the phone is better than a morning viewing a car that’s not right for you.

Questions to ask:

• How many owners has the car had and how long have they owned it?
• How many miles has it covered?
• How would they describe the condition? Ask them to describe any damage or mechanical problems
• How long does the MOT and road tax have to run
• Does it have its V5C registration document (logbook), service history, old MOT certificates and any bills or receipts?
• Has it been involved in any accidents or stolen?
• Does it have any outstanding finance?
• Has any maintenance recently been carried out on the car?
• Does it need any maintenance in the near future? For example, are the tyres almost worn out, or is the engine’s cambelt due to be replaced?

If you’re buying from a private seller, a helpful trick is to ask the seller if “the car is for sale”. If they ask which car you’re referring too, the chances are you’re dealing with a trader in disguise – they could be trying to off-load a car without taking the responsibilities required of them by law.

Always view a car at the seller’s address – a trader’s place of business, or a private seller’s home – and check private sellers’ addresses correspond with the details on the logbook.

Arranging a viewing

• Always view the car in daylight and when its dry – darkness and raindrops can hide damage
• Tell the seller if you want to arrange a professional inspection after seeing the car yourself
• Don’t be pressured into paying a deposit before seeing the car
• Tell the seller you want to take a test drive, and make sure you arrange suitable insurance cover


Telesafe is a service offered by Auto Trader to stop canvassers contacting sellers. Telesafe numbers replace sellers’ own phone numbers and costs vary according to whether the number is directed to a mobile or landline.

The cost of calling Telesafe numbers is outlined below in pence-per-minute, but calls from mobiles can cost more.


Number range       Day     Evening     Weekend
0872                          5.67p       3.02p        0.93p
070                           37.50p      25.00p      12.50p

How Auto Trader can help:
Vehicle Check
Car valuation

More in-depth buying advice:

How to choose the right car:
Buying a used car | Buying a new car | Setting your budget
Comparing new and used cars | Choosing the right car
Buying an imported car | Buying a classic car

How to buy a car:
Contacting the seller | Inspecting a used car | Test driving a car
Haggling with sellers | Doing the paperwork

How to pay for your car:
Understanding car loans and finance | Checking your credit rating
Returning a car