The used car market is stronger than ever, and for good reason; a combination of increasing costs to UK consumers, and a shortage of new vehicles, has led to a significant increase in used car sales in recent years. Used cars are a great way to keep costs down when hunting for your next vehicle, but knowing exactly what you’re looking for can be tough. Here are some key things you should look out for when buying on the used market.

The Dealership

Used car dealerships are one of the better, more efficient ways to hunt for a second-hand bargain; they often have a wide range of cars to choose from, and a representative to talk you through the history of each one. Herein lies the first red flag you should be looking out for, though. Is the representative being forthright with information about each vehicle, or do they seem unsure about what they’re telling you?

You should also find out if the dealership rigorously checks and services each vehicle before a sale. If you’re in the market for a used Mercedes, you want to be sure that it has been comprehensively checked before you buy – or, at least, that warranty is available when you do buy.

The Seller

Of course, you may not be buying from a used car dealership. You may instead be reaching out to private sellers, whether in popular online vehicle marketplaces or in the back pages of your local newspaper. With private sellers, you need to be even more careful.

For starters, you should verify that the car they are selling belongs to them – or that their story checks out regarding ownership and history. This can be done before you go to view the car, by checking the registration plate against DVLA vehicle information

You should also bring someone else with you if you do decide to meet a seller, for safety and to drive your car back for you if you do go ahead with a sale! If the seller is particularly pushy about selling the car to you, though, you should think twice before going ahead with the sale; is there something the seller might be hiding?

The Car

Which brings us to the most important part of any used car purchase: checking the car itself. Kicking tyres was never a useful test for a used car, but there are some other simple things you can check to figure out if the car is a worthy purchase.

Bodywork can tell you a story about the vehicle’s prior treatment – scrapes can suggest careless driving in its history, while off-colour body panels indicate that the car has been in an accident, and could be hiding deeper chassis damage. The engine is arguably the most important thing to check, though – so be sure to take it for a test drive before you buy. Any unexpected noises are an immediate red flag, and a sure sign to leave well alone.