If you’re not familiar with motor mechanics, buying a used car can be daunting. If this is the case it’s a good idea to take someone with you as two pairs of eyes and a second opinion could prove invaluable. But whether as a pair or on your own it makes sense to view a used car in daylight, not when it’s dark and you can’t see the car or when it’s chucking it down and you’re in a rush to get back in the dry!

Documentation

The first thing you should do is ask to see the car’s DVLA Form V5 and examine it closely to see if any alterations have been made and to confirm the seller’s name and address. The only reason the seller won’t have this form is if the car was bought recently in which case he or she should at least have the green slip. While looking at the form check that the date of first registration, the registration index and the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) all match. The VIN carries codes for the model type and date of construction and should be located either under the bonnet in front of the engine or to one side. If they don’t match or look like they’ve been messed with then the car is probably stolen. The other important document to look at is the vehicle’s current MoT certificate, from which you should be able to check the mileage on the form against that on the car’s mileometer. It is worth remembering, however, that the MoT certificate simply means the car was roadworthy when tested not that it is safe to drive nor is it likely to pass another test. Stationary checks Without too much technical expertise it is possible to give the car a good examination to find out if its worth buying. The first simple step you can take is by squatting in front of the vehicle, roughly ten feet away, and look at the four wheels to check they are aligned up properly – if not this could be a sign it as been involved in a collision at some point. You can also check to see if the wheels have been aligned properly by examining whether the treads on the tyres have worn unevenly. All tyres should have at lest 1.6mm of tread and be free of gashes splits and bulges. You should also stand in front of each corner of the car and look carefully down its side for any ripples and dents in the panels, which could point to badly repaired accident damage. Don’t be afraid to open and shut all the doors, boot and bonnet to ensure they fit snugly and there aren’t big gaps. Also check for pain on the trim which is a good sign of a respray job. To make sure the shock absorbers are working well, bounce each corner of the car half a dozen times and let go. If it bounces more than twice, then there’s a fault so check for leaks and rust around the points where they attach to the body. Finally have a quick look at the mileometer to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with and see if the condition of the driver’s seat and pedals appear to match the mileage. Test drive Once again, though it might be an intimidating prospect, taking a used car for a test drive is without doubt the best way to ensure the vehicle is up to scratch. Make sure your test drive is long enough for the engine to warm up – around 15 minutes – and again take on a mix of deferent motoring conditions. Make sure the steering feels responsive by trying out a three-point turn and give each gear a thorough examination. Other things to look out for are the brakes, handbrake and the clutch. Finally listen out for strange noises and watch for odd warning lights and dodgy smells!

All this advice might seem a little overwhelming at first and once your standing in front of your dream machine its quite easy to get carried away. However even if you can just bear in mind a few of these points you much more likely to find yourself on the road to success and not stuck on the hard shoulder.