A Conversation for Buying a Car

Buying and selling a motor

Post 1


Can't believe I'm the first to post. Obviously not an interesting topic to most people!

Ok 1 by 1.

So, when it come to buying a car:

How can we spot an Arthur Daley1/fly-by-night type of vendor?

Common sense and judgement. If its a dealer ask for a warranty of some kind. If its a private sale there is no come back as its sold as seen so you have to take a chance in effect.

How can we tell if an engine is in good shape?

the best way is to listen. Listen for any bangs or clicks or rattles.

How can we strip back the cosmetics of a car to see any underlying problems?

If possible have a look under the carpet inside and look for rot. Feel under the wheel arches, check the sills (the strip running under the doors). Lift the bonnet and look at the wings and suspension posts.

What should we look out for on a test drive?

Lots of things. One is to check the gearbox is sound as they can be very expensive to replace. Make sure it doesn't pop out of gear when you are driving (do some kangaroo hops).

Listen for rattles coming from anywhere. Does the car feel solid?

How far should you haggle?

Depends yourself and the seller. If they are desperate to sell quickly then you have the upper hand but if its a particularly desirable or rare car then the situation is reversed (no pun intended).

... and when it come to selling a car:

How can we ensure that the car we want to sell is in tip-top shape?

Get it mot'd. That will make sure its safe. You could have it serviced but if you are selling the car you're not likely to want to spend too much cash on it.

There are lots of cheap ways to make a car look good and they all involve a lot of elbow grease.

Get some T-cut (an abrasive polish) and restore the color. Bring out the shine with some wax. Hoover the inside and clean all the vinyl. Use some glass cleaner on the inside of the windows. Back to Black make the bumpers and other external plastics look good (temporarily). Tyre wall black makes the car look that little bit cleaner.

What documents must you provide?

Essentially the log-book but other stuff helps like service history or receipts from work carried out.

What if they want to take your car on a test drive? Do you accompany them? What about the insurance?

Tricky one that. Always accompany them. NEVER let someone take your car on their own! If they say they are insured its up to you whether to believe them or ask for evidence. A lot of people are insured to drive other cars with third party cover but if they crash your car you will get nothing!


Buying and selling a motor

Post 2

Captain Kebab

Do everything that threesecondmemory suggests, and then here's some more...

Always go to see the car in daylight.

If you are considering spending a lot of money on a car, it is worth the investment on having the car professionally inspected - the major motoring organisations offer this service. If the seller doesn't want you to - why not?

If you're not spending enough to make this worthwhile, take a knowledgeable and trustworthy friend (come on, everybody knows somebody who's a bit of a car buff) - and LISTEN to them - a couple of times I've been with people to buy a car, told them not to buy it and they've gone ahead. It was no satisfaction when the I was proved right and the cars were expensive nightmares.

It is also worth getting a history check (again, the AA do this, and HPI) This may reveal that the car is stolen or has outstanding finance.

Check around the inside of the doorframes - pull back the weatherstrip if you can - you are looking for weld marks. If you see any, matched on the opposite side of the car - walk away, it's likely to be two wrecks welded together.

Stand back and just look at the car from a few feet away and from different directions. Are all the panels the same colour? If not, why not?

Check the gaps around the doors, bonnet and boot/tailgate. Are they even and fairly narrow? Look at other cars of the same make to get a feel for this. If the panel gaps are uneven it's an indication that the car may have been in an accident.

Check the tyre wear - is it even? Uneven tyre wear can indicate all sorts of things including misaligned chassis - at the very least it shows insufficient maintenance.

Looking inside now - does the seller guarantee the mileage on the speedo? If not, look at the steering wheel and the knob on the gear lever - if these are shiny and worn the car has seen a lot of action. The pedals can tell a similar story, but pedal rubbers are cheap and easy to replace, not many bother replacing the steering wheel.

Is the drivers' seat worn, particularly on the side near the door? Look at the outside edge of the seat back, and the corners of the cushion. You would normally expect the back seat to be much less worn and possibly be cleaner and newer-looking than the fronts - unless the car has been used as a taxi. Are there any signs of radio or meter equipment having been removed - little screwholes in the dash?

Are there any burns in the upholstery or roof-lining? Interior trim is expensive to replace.

Now, under the bonnet. Is the engine dirty and covered in old oil? Check the fluid levels - if it has been allowed to run short of oil or coolant than it is probable that maintenance has been skimped. Nice clean oil is a good sign, but black oil isn't necessarily bad if the car is due a service.

Look in the boot. Is the spare tyre present? What kind of condition is it in? Check all around the inside of the boot under the mat/carpet for rust. While you're there, is the carpet/mat worn looking (especially on estates)? This could indicate a lot of load carrying.

OK, so this all checks out - time to go for a drive. If the buyer will let you, go for an extended drive. The car should be cold when you arrive (so you can try a cold start) - you should drive at least far enough to get it thoroughly hot. Watch the warning lights when you start the car. Do they come on with the ignition? And do they extinguish promptly when you start up? It's not unknown for the unscrupulous to wire the oil light to the ignition light. Are there any knocks or rattles when it starts?

Off you go, then. Does the car drive smoothly and quietly under normal conditions. Try the brakes. Does it stop promptly without pulling to either side? Try loosening your grip on the wheel - the car should continue straight, braking or not.

Find a fast road. Drive at speed - does it pull smoothly and strongly? Does it cruise quietly and smoothly? Now, try accelerating hard from low speed in high gear - any knocks or rumbles? Park up and try to drive off with the handbrake on. Does it stall? It should. If it goes, the handbrake is worn, if the engine revs and the car doesn't move the cluthch is shot. Now, accelerate away. Keep your eye on the rearview mirror - when you lift off the accelerator - is there a puff of blue smoke from the exhaust? If there is, the car needs major engine surgery.

After your drive, keep the engine running and check the exhaust for blue haze. Ask whoever you've taken with to give the car a rev while you check.

If everything is still ok, check all the car's equipment - do all the doors open, close, lock and unlock properly? Do all the windows wind (especially electric ones)? Does the sunroof work? Check the heater blows and does hot AND cold, check the air con if fitted, the wipers, lights, stereo - switch on and off everyting in the car that goes on and off and make sure that it does.

If you find some minor faults this can be a good thing - you can use them as a bargaining point - but I'd rather not find anything wrong at all.

Don't be afraid to walk away at any stage, there will always be more cars to look at.

But if everything checks out, and you like the car - start haggling!

Buying and selling a motor

Post 3

Captain Kebab

I suggested checking the exhaust for blue haze after a run. What I forgot to say is that you don't want to see any - if you do, the engine is on the way out.

Buying and selling a motor

Post 4

The Researcher formally known as Dr St Justin

Passing the MOT=safe? Not true at all.

A couple of cars we've bought in the passed had both passed their mot - they had to be put through the test for them to be sold to us - but when we took them for a service, the mechanics came up with whole lists of things that needed looking at, some of which were extremely dangerous!

If you've found a car that you're thinking of buying, it's worthwhile taking a qualified mechanic with you to look it over. It might cost you a little more, but it's far better to be safe...

Buying and selling a motor

Post 5


Yeah, good advice.

I forgot to mention that some places idea of an MOT worthy car can be a little off the mark!

Captain Kebab, wow, lots off really sound advice. Learnt a lot from that, thanks. Are you a mechanic or car dealer etc.?

Buying and selling a motor

Post 6


Ohe yeah, HPI and RAC tests and all that are fantastic but they all cost money so it really depends on how much you are spending on a car. If you are buying a bangor for three hundred quid then its perhaps not worthwhile.

Or at least, thats what I think!


Buying and selling a motor

Post 7

Captain Kebab

I agree - there's no point paying out £100 getting a £300 car checked out - you're far better off finding a knowledgeable pal who'll come along for the price of a pint. On the other hand, if you are spending thousands you'd be silly not too. The finance and history checks are probably worthwhile if you're spending £500 or more.

As far as I'm concerned, thanks for the compliment. I'm not in the trade, but many years ago I worked a an AA Patrol rescuing distressed gentlefolk. I also had a driving school for some years so I'm used to giving motoring advice. My work no longer concerns cars, but I'm into classics and have a couple.

Apart from when I had the driving school, when I bought new cars for work, the most I have ever spent on a car has been £1800 (on Mrs Kebab's current wheels) - and I've been driving 27 years since 1974. My current daily driver is a £500 Morris Minor (see the entry link on my page if you're interested) - it's definitely not a banger. smiley - smiley

Incidentally, don't think I've never bought a lemon, because I have! smiley - sadface

Buying and selling a motor

Post 8


The AA? So you're a very nice man then? smiley - winkeye

I'll go and check out that link in a mo.

I'm into modern japanese motors. Very keen on toyota MR2s MKII because I think they look like a super car for runaround money. Although it'll be a while before I can afford a decent one!

Only ever owned two cars, both very dull. first was a fiesta which I did up to look like an XR2 (as u do) and the second was an escort. Thrilling!

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