What to look for in a used car

We’ve discussed in more detail specific things you should consider when buying a used car if you’re a younger driver, an older motorist or need a family vehicle. But there are certain things that any and every motorist should think about when it comes to choosing the perfect pre-owned model.

Value and reliability

When you’re choosing a used car, it’s often a good idea to consider its resale value. Look at the reliability record of the model you pick and that of the manufacturer, and try to find a vehicle that has been well maintained. Also consider the current mileage – the lower the better – and even things like colour can affect the resale value.


Always think about what you’ll be using the car for. For example, if you live in an urban environment with tight parking spaces you’ll probably want to consider a small hatchback, whereas if you’re a mum of four, you’ll need something that’ll comfortably accommodate the kids and their luggage.


Safety is always a priority, and most modern cars have a raft of features that keep you well protected. Find out what comes as standard on the models you’re looking at and decide how much peace of mind you need on the road. It’s also worth checking the Euro NCAP safety ratings for an accurate picture of how the car performed in tests.

Security and condition

When you go to look at a used car, check the details of the car against the paperwork and take a look at its general condition. We’ve detailed the security checks to carry out when you view a vehicle, but don’t overlook the general wear and tear. What condition are the seats and steering wheel in? Is there any rust or cosmetic damage to the exterior? What state are the alloys in? Inspect the car properly and decide if you think the asking price is fair for what you see.

Ride and handling

Some people place more emphasis on how the car feels to drive than others, but it is important that you get on with your chosen vehicle. Take it for a test drive to ascertain how comfortable the ride is, how sharp the handling is, and how much body roll you experience in corners. Some people are looking for a sporty feel with speedy acceleration, while others want comfort and convenience. Going for a spin will help you to identify anything that you may not like about the drive, as well as giving you a chance to spot potential mechanical faults.

Running costs

The final thing to look for in a used car is whether its running costs suit your budget. Manufacturers are trying to lower their CO2 emissions and make their vehicles more efficient, saving you money on tax and fuel, but these still largely depend on the type of car you go for and its engine size.