Although it’s often the most expensive purchase most of us make – after a home – many of us do not know the tricks to ensure we’re in the driving seat when it comes to negotiating a good price.
Double check: Make sure the colour is the same on every panel of the car
At a seminar run by webuyanycar.com, Rich Evans talked This is Money through the things to look for to make sure you get a good deal.
1. Do not get in the drivers’ seat
‘Once they’ve got you in the drivers’ seat, the salesman’s job is nearly done,’ says Rich. ‘The car smells nice, it’s a model you like, you start imagining yourself as the owner – your response becomes emotional.’ Instead, wait until you’ve had a good look around the car before you get inside.
Then carry out the following checks before getting in to the car.
If there is variation in the shades – even very subtle differences – this normally tells you the car has been worked on. Ask why this is.
3. Check the tyre tread with a 20p piece
The tread should be at least 3mm deep. Use a 20p piece to check the depth – inset the coin into one of the grooves – the edge of the coin is 3mm deep so it should be easy to see.
It is true that the minimum legal requirement for tyre tread depth is 1.6mm, but tyres are costly to replace – and once it’s your car it’ll be you forking out, so you should make sure you won’t be doing it any time soon. To check the tread, turn the wheels at an angle so you can get a good look at the tyre.
Small change, big difference: Use a 20p to check the tread of the tyres
4. Check the bolts for tell-tale scratches
Most cars these days have bolt-on panels. Check the bolts under the bonnet. If the paint is chipped on the bolts, it means the panels may have been modified in some way. Ask why this is – it may give an indication of the car’s history.
Giveaway: If the bolts have scratches, it suggests the panels may have been taken off at some point
5. Check the reflections on the body of the car are not warped
It can be hard to spot small dents in some lights – but looking at the reflections on a car can help. If they are warped or distorted, this can reveal a dent or issue with the bodywork.
6. Beware modifications!
Watch out in particular for modified exhausts, tyres or air filters. These are often carried out by enthusiasts rather than professionals, and can cause you problems later on.
Too cool for school? Watch out for modifications that may have been carried out by an amateur
7. Check the lights on the dashboard go on – and off
Now you’re ready to get into the car. Check the lights on the dashboard – they should go out when you turn the ignition.
Make sure lights including the airbag light and anti-lock braking light come on briefly and then turn off again when you turn the key. Sometimes bulbs are taken out so the light doesn’t turn on at all – or are blocked out by a piece of dark insulation tape so watch out.
Enlightening: Make sure the right lights go on when you turn on the ignition – and then go off again after a couple of seconds
8. Check the sat nav could get you home
If the car has an integrated sat nav system, make sure it works. Make sure the disc is present, enter your home postcode and make sure it would get you there.
9. Check the air conditioning – even if it’s winter
Understandably, some people forget to do this if it’s the middle of winter. Move the vents to the centre and turn on.
Even in winter: Make sure you check the air conditioning – an easy thing to forget if it’s cold outside
10. Spot a car that could end up smelling
Lift up the mats in the car to check for cigarette burns or dents from high heels. This can give away details about the history of the car. Anyone can make a car smell fresh for a few hours, but this can only last so long. Cigarette burns will let you know if the previous owner was a smoker.
Hidden secrets: Check the mats – and under them – for clues to the car’s past
11. Check the service history of the car
Check that it matches up to what you’ve been told. Check the mileage matches up to the MOT reports.
Read up: Check the car’s service and MOT history and make sure it all tallies
Remember the price on the sticker is only the starting price. Take the price of the defects you’ve spotted off of this price for a start.