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Tips on buying a used car safely

Watch our short film featuring top tips that will help ensure you stay safe when you're buying a used car.

Buying a car is the second biggest purchase you are ever likely to make, and these are three key ways to help safeguard you and your money.

Know your rights

Buying a car through a dealership is generally considered the safer option because you are protected by the Consumer Rights Act.
You don’t get the same protection when you’re buying from a private seller, but the car must still match the description in the advert, or what the seller has told you. If it doesn’t, you could have a claim under the Misrepresentation Act.

Touch it and check it

Never buy a car without seeing it, and always check the VRM (Vehicle Registration Mark, better known as your registration plate) and the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) on the registration document. The VIN can be found in a variety of locations around the car, including on a plate under the bonnet, and on most cars, another set into the base of the windscreen.
Having a vehicle home delivered is becoming more and more popular. To check you are buying from a genuine retailer, look for the ‘Home delivery’ icon on their adverts. Always be cautious of sellers who ask for money upfront before you've seen the vehicle. If you’re paying a deposit or paying upfront for click and collect/home delivery, consider using a credit card as this offers additional protection, If any issues arise, you may be protected under distance selling regulations. Citizens Advice can provide advice around this. We also recommend a History Check (which can be performed on our site by visiting the Vehicle Check page to see if the car has been stolen or written-off by an insurance company. This check will also see if the vehicle has outstanding finance against it. If it does, contact the seller as quite often the finance agreement is settled on sale of the vehicle. However, please be aware if you buy the vehicle, the finance company will remain the legal owner of the vehicle until the loan is repaid in full. Once you’re happy with the condition of the car and have agreed a price...

Think about payment

The easiest way to push for a discount is to buy with cash, and the best way to complete the sale is to go to the bank with the seller and exchange documents once the payment has been made.
Buy from a dealer, and you can also buy on finance. If something goes wrong, and the retailer won’t sort it out, you can go to the finance company. Another option is Hire Purchase, where you buy the loan from a finance company, so if anything goes wrong, contact them immediately.

Check your car insurance

If you’re thinking of taking the car out for a test drive, make sure you are insured to do so.
If you decide to buy the car, then you will have to inform your car insurer that you are driving a new vehicle. Be sure to tell them when you’ll need the new cover to start, or it may end being invalid. If your existing policy is coming to an end, or you need a new one, then you can use comparison sites to look for car insurance deals.

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