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Buying a used car: 10 dud-dodging tips
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Thinking of buying a used car? Here are ten top tips to make sure you get a car to take off in, not a car to get ripped off in!
- If possible, buy from a reputable dealer. Cars will be slightly higher in price as a basic mileage check or warranty will be included in the price for peace of mind. You've got more comeback if something is amiss.
- When buying via classified ads, simply say “I'm calling about the car” when you ring up. Don't mention the model - some traders masquerade as private sellers. A true private seller will know immediately what car you're talking about - a phantom trader with a dozen lock-ups scattered across town will have to ask “Which one?”
- Look at the registration document. A car that's been in company hands is likely to have a high mileage. Be equally suspicious of a car with an abnormal number of previous keepers. There's a reason they wanted rid of it, and you can be sure it's not a happy one.
- Is there a full service history? Flick through the service book and check that the car has visited a garage at the correct intervals, and is fully stamped-up. With the advent of computerised records it's easy to trace a car's history. If in doubt, call any of the garages to verify any discrepancies.
- MoT certificates can prove that an older car's mileage is genuine. If the seller has a sheaf of test papers dating back to the car's third birthday, check the mileage readings go up and not down as the car ages.
- Examine the speedometer and instrument binnacle for scratches, chips or damaged screw-heads, all of which might suggest that it has recently been removed. Clocking a car is harder these days than it used to be, but is still possible.
- Put your hand on the bonnet when you turn up for a test drive to see if the car has been warmed up in advance. Some sellers will do this to hide start-up noise or exhaust-related problems.
- A dodgy car is betrayed by its condition. Pedal rubbers can wear through at 60,000 miles and steering wheels become shiny on the rim with a lot of use. Seats - the driver's especially - start to sag and become stained as the miles roll around. Bodywork also shows its age, with the paintwork on the bonnet's leading edge prone to stone chips on high-mileage cars.
- New tyres are a give-away on newer cars. Reckon on 35,000 miles for a set of boots on a family car and 20,000 on a performance model. A two year-old car showing 20,000 miles on the clock but running on bald tyres should be treated with extreme caution.
- Take a note of the last two owners' names and addresses and telephone them if possible. Ask what mileage the car had when they sold it. If they've nothing to hide, they won't mind talking to you. Watch the seller when you mention you're going to do this. If he starts to squirm - he could have something to hide.
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