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Help Needed By Car Dunce Requiring Second-Hand Car

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I need a replacement car I'm going the second-hand route and just wondering the things to look out for if I go private rather than a car supermarket.

The only things I know is to look for a long MOT, check the mileage and confirm the timing-belt is not going to go, check if FSH and check it is fairly valued. But anything else? I don't buy cars often and don't know the ropes really.

Also, I'm planning on buying the same model car as before (as I know my way round it for basic maint.) the battery in existing car is only a year old and was brand new. Is it worth keeping? I'm not sure if a box of sulphuric acid in the garage is a good idea or not.

Thanks,

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Make sure it's a genuine private sale, the first thing to ask on the phone is how long they have owned it, and beware of people claiming to be selling on behalf of a friend. Be aware of any known problems with that particular model at that particular mileage, but try to find someone who will look the car over if you are not too sure about cars, many garage mechanics will be prepared to do this.

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The basic problem with buying totally privately is that of caveat emptor. Dealers have a reputation to protect, and so established local ones will rarely sell you a car with a significant issue that they don't make clear up front. If you buy 'sold as seen' from a private seller, you've got little to no comeback if you find out soon afterwards that there is a problem which is seriously expensive to fix.

As a general rule I'd say that a high mileage / low age car is a better bet than high age / low mileage. The latter will probably have done lots of short runs from a cold start, and that is about the most efficient way possible to knacker an engine.

Agreed totally that checking the time left to a recommended timing belt change is a good idea. Again, one advantage of paying a dealer's overhead is that you can negotiate on this. When I bought my last car I offered the sticker price if they threw in a cambelt change, and the deal was done. You're looking at anything from £200-500 to have that done yourself, or one hell of a lot more if the belt fails in action.

I would also check the tyres - if they're close to worn out, this should be reflected in the price being asked. Uneven wear on the tyres might also indicate tracking problems caused in turn by something more serious - a suspension wishbone, for example. Rust on the bodywork is another one, obviously.

As for the battery, if it's only done a year then it should have another 2-3 years of life left in it, even if it's treated very unsympathetically (i.e. lots of short runs with lots of electrical stuff going in the car). The question is whether for the sake of a £70-100 battery, it's worth trying to salvage it. After all, I presume that you're going to sell your existing car, and without a battery in it that might be a bit of a challenge.

Be aware of any known problems with that particular model at that particular mileage...

Honest John offers useful info on known problems with specific models.

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You have the same come back from a private sale as from a dealer. The words 'sold as seen' written anywhere mean absolutely nothing at all. If you buy a car and the next day the exhaust falls off then legally you have the same rights as if you had bought from a dealer. It may not be as easy as going back and shouting at a dealer but small claims is pretty straight forward.

I wouldnt buy from a dealer. He has wages to pay, rates and taxes to pay, forecourt costs and profit to make. That all gets added onto the price of the car. I doubt that there is a second hand car priced reasonably on any dealers forecourt.

The risk imo is the trade sellers. Not a dealer with a garage but guys selling cars trade from their lot or garden. They offer no warranty and a flogging cars that they have bought from garages. Most of their stock has been taken in as a part ex but a reputable dealer knows it is a bucket of bolts so wont risk selling it or offering a warranty on it. If the v5 paperwork is not in the sellers name then he is likely to be a trade seller flogging crap part ex's.

Check the service book to see what service was done last, when the timing belt is due next (if not overdue) and take the cost into account. Lots of cars I have seen being sold at 55k with the belt being due at 60k for example.

Check the exhaust, stick a rag on the end to block it and see if there is quiet and compression or if air is coming out somewhere. Factor in the cost of a new exhaust if need be.

Look for oil/coolant leaks in the engine. Look around the drive/road for oil patches.

Make sure that you ask for the list of advisory notices that may have come with an mot to see what may need doing for the next one.

Check the tyres and when you test drive it make sure that there are no squeeks or knocking sounds from wheels/steering.

Need to know what sort of car you are after to know what sounds to look out for engine wise.

I bought my last car on ebay. Cars are priced there for what they are worth rather than what a guide or misguided seller thinks. Mine was £1100 (2l citroen xsara estate diesel 52 plate) and has been fine for over 2 years. Even if it died after a year it wouldnt have owed me anything for that price. I have also looked at cars that I have won on ebay and walked away and am not bound by the fact that i won an internet auction.

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Don't meet up at a corner of a road.

Get a landline tel no.

Check MOT history and service, check mileage, log book for mileage consistency and how may previous owners, does it add up.

Check no finance outstanding.

Check not a cut and shut.

Look under the bonnet and under mats and carpet.

Check tyres, check for oil leaks and rust......go for a run to see how it ticks over...... ;)

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+10

I wouldnt touch a vauxhall either, not even with free money.

Rubbish, perfectly good cars.

Most cars are well made these days so you can't really go that far wrong.

Unless you buy a G-Whiz.

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Some good tips here. I should add maybe someone could suggest or point me to the HPC thread I think I saw recently about car suggestions. I don't want to spend too much because I'll be leaving the car everywhere with my work so I don't want to be too worried about it. Maybe a couple of grand or so. Old car's not worth anything but scrap value which (because of high commodity prices) I was surprised I would even get any money for it.

The basic problem with buying totally privately is that of caveat emptor. Dealers have a reputation to protect, and so established local ones will rarely sell you a car with a signi........nsympathetically (i.e. lots of short runs with lots of electrical stuff going in the car). The question is whether for the sake of a £70-100 battery, it's worth trying to salvage it. After all, I presume that you're going to sell your existing car, and without a battery in it that might be a bit of a challenge.

Honest John offers useful info on known problems with specific models.

Thanks, I was always under the impression private from say a newspaper is caveat emptor but richyc seems to think different, I never considered small claims court.

It would probably be helpful if you were a tad more specific about what car you are after, your budget etc

Yea sorry I know, I was overcome with Internet identification paranoia so I was after general issues couple of grand maybe that's reliable. I'm a car dunce.

+10

I wouldnt touch a vauxhall either, not even with free money.

I never even considered ebay for some reason. So if it was a choice it would be 1)ebay 2)private 3)Car supermarket but not backyard dealer?

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and confirm the timing-belt is not going to go

Do cars still use timing belts? I thought it was all fuel injectors and electronic ignition these days.

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Do cars still use timing belts? I thought it was all fuel injectors and electronic ignition these days.

Effed if I know. Maybe the one I am buying will as i want a second-hand one and a cheap one at that.

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Do cars still use timing belts? I thought it was all fuel injectors and electronic ignition these days.

I think you mean points.

Though I had a chain-driven 1.3 Escort, nice not to have a belt.

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Go to the car auctions if you have the readies. If theres some major mechanical problems you can take the car back within a short time frame for a refund, which is better than going private imo, plus you can get access to a wider range of vehicles.

British Car Auctions http://www.british-car-auctions.co.uk/ for example lets you sign up and then watch for the type of car you want.

I got myself a Golf GTI (TDI 150) some years ago for £8k when it was going on forecourts for £11k to give you an idea of potential savings. Very pleased with that car as it had everything I wanted (black 3door with winterpack) and it would give 600miles out of a 55l tank yet still had fantastic grunt for overtaking!

Aren't a lot of cars sold at auction, effectively sold as seen? I think you can only take it back if its stolen (which I believe the buyers premium covers)... ebay is a good bet, when I got mine, what nearly four years ago, I saved over 2 grand on mine...I then found out that a former owner was Jan Molby! Unfortunately the glove compartment didn't have oceans of mars bars in it...

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You have the same come back from a private sale as from a dealer. The words 'sold as seen' written anywhere mean absolutely nothing at all. If you buy a car and the next day the exhaust falls off then legally you have the same rights as if you had bought from a dealer. It may not be as easy as going back and shouting at a dealer but small claims is pretty straight forward.

That's incorrect, Sales of Goods Act does apply to both 'trader' and 'private' sale, but only if it is misdescribed, not fitness for purpose etc.

Get a HPI check and AA/RAC check , watch out for mileage disclaimers, once standard practice but not allowed under current legislation so the dealer must be able to show that he has verified the mileage. Make sure the car has a full service history, check the description is accurate and check again.

Franchised/larger dealers may charge more and may still offer rubbish service but will ultimately it will be easier to to seek redress against them in the courts if it all goes wrong.

The best advice I could offer is to purchase either partly, or fully on a credit card. If it all goes badly wrong you have sec 75 CCA joint liability to fall back on.

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Depends on the type of auction you go to and the vehicle. When I got mine from the BCA Blackbushe site, there was a sign up saying that if the engine or gearbox failed within something like 10days you could take it back or something to that effect (it was 5-6years ago now) but theres nothing on their website. Its worth dropping say BCA an email to ask what rights there are if the car has problems but also the desciption of the car is also legally binding. This means any mileage, condition, service history that is mentioned is legally binding.

I know when I blew my 1st car up a montego 1.6L and explored the options, one car dealer said they would fill the engine up with the thickest oil they could to dampen down the sound of the bottom bearing that had bust and hope for the best so I guess it boils down to the desciption they give for the car.

I've been to the one in Bridgwater, and I think the auctioneer announced it as the car came through...

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Assuming you only need it for commuting to work would a van, such as an Escort, be cheaper than a car?

What a good idea......the more versatile the better........use it to pick up your 99p purchases. ;)

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Thanks, I was always under the impression private from say a newspaper is caveat emptor but richyc seems to think different, I never considered small claims court.

Me neither. I'm sure richyc is right, though IMO it's a case of practicalities. If you buy a car from a totally private Arthur Daley type, he won't be too worried about his reputation, and you may end up having to drag him through the small claims court. If you buy from a well established local garage, then of course you will pay a premium to reflect the running costs of their business - but you'll also be paying for their reputation. They won't want you to go around telling your friends that the day after you bought a secondhand car from them the cambelt snapped, and so in my experience they won't try to pull the wool over your eyes over any major issues. A private seller might be a totally honest one, too, but you never know.

Following my last change of car, I had a phone call about a month later from the bloke who bought it, from an auction for £300. It was an 11 year-old Mondeo that had done just over 250k miles, and the only reason it went for that much was that it had been converted to run on LPG. When I part-exchanged it (for £100) to the dealer from whom I bought my current car, I handed over all the service documentation etc. I'd accumulated with it, some of which had my address and phone number on it, hence the reason he called me. When I handed the car over to the dealer, I made it very clear that the thing probably needed a grand at least spending on it to get it through the next MoT (which was the reason I got rid of it): at least one wheel bearing was knackered and probably both rear ones, three of the tyres were on the verge of legality, none of the radiator fans would come on at all and the problem wasn't simple (I'd already replaced the thermostat and sender, checked the fuse etc.), the air conditioning was fooked, the bleed screw on one of the brake calipers had seized and so the fluid could not be replaced unless you replaced the whole caliper, etc. etc. He hadn't been told about any of this by the auctioneers. That phone call was enough to put me off ever buying a car in an auction. I presume the dealer knew full well that he could never sell it himself without making a huge loss on the repairs he'd have to do first and then sent it to the auctioneers, who were somewhat less scrupulous than him.

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Me neither. I'm sure richyc is right, though IMO it's a case of practicalities. If you buy a car from a totally private Arthur Daley type, he won't be too worried about his reputation, and you may end up having to drag him through the small claims court. If you buy from a well established local garage, then of course you will pay a premium to reflect the running costs of their business - but you'll also be paying for their reputation. They won't want you to go around selling your friends that the day after you bought a secondhand car from them the cambelt snapped, and so in my experience they won't try to pull the wool over your eyes over any major issues. A private seller might be a totally honest one, too, but you never know.

Following my last change of car, I had a phone call about a month later from the bloke who bought it, from an auction for £300. It was an 11 year-old Mondeo that had done just over 250k miles, and the only reason it went for that much was that it had been converted to run on LPG. When I part-exchanged it (for £100) to the dealer from whom I bought my current car, I handed over all the service documentation etc. I'd accumulated with it, some of which had my address and phone number on it, hence the reason he called me. When I handed the car over to the dealer, I made it very clear that the thing probably needed a grand at least spending on it to get it through the next MoT (which was the reason I got rid of it): at least one wheel bearing was knackered and probably both rear ones, three of the tyres were on the verge of legality, none of the radiator fans would come on at all and the problem wasn't simple (I'd already replaced the thermostat and sender, checked the fuse etc.), the air conditioning was fooked, the bleed screw on one of the brake calipers had seized and so the fluid could not be replaced unless you replaced the whole caliper, etc. etc. He hadn't been told about any of this by the auctioneers. That phone call was enough to put me off ever buying a car in an auction. I presume the dealer knew full well that he could never sell it himself without making a huge loss on the repairs he'd have to do first and then sent it to the auctioneers, who were somewhat less scrupulous than him.

AFAIK, the "premium" you pay to a dealer effectively is your warranty...I think by law, a dealer has to give you a warranty...So who is liable if you buy a motor from a private chap, and ten miles down the road, something catastrophic goes (without warning) - extreme example I know, but say a cam belt or a head gasket? If the previous owner honestly didn't know about that particular problem, can you claim against them?

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Exactly, point taken, and I'll modify my previous comment to read: 'They won't want you to go around telling your friends that the day after you bought a secondhand car from them the cambelt snapped, you took the car back to them (or more accurately, the RAC did) and they told me to fook off.'

A private seller could claim that a cambelt snapping minutes after you bought the car from them was an act of God: and if they could show that it had last been replaced within the manufacturer's recommended interval, I suspect that the small claims court would agree with them. But a dealer in a given community, well known for selling 106s and Corsas to grannies to do the weekly trip to Tesco in, is not going to want to take the reputational hit that would result from telling you to fook off under such circumstances. As with all things, it boils down to how much risk you're willing to take, and how much you trust your own knowledge not to have to pay for the trust of someone else's.

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Only bought one car from auction, nearly bought others. It was cheap and great.

I took a mechanic mate with me - he was interested in going, got a free trip (evening out and fed/watered/entertained watching me bid at the very end) and got to service / repair the car till it dropped.

Car auctions shold be fine is you keep to ex-lease, ex-finance amd sold as all good (sometimes warranted for etended periods for small pricec I believe as well). Will be cheaper than forecourt. Privae sales and old stuff sold as seen bit of a crap shoot.

There are also other auctions that cars turn up at - insolvency and company closure - won;t get the same fallback as being sold all good - not many companies keep really duff cars on their books though so some bargains to be had there is you are not picky at all about what make/model you are after - becuase so few go through. Car auction prices tend to be more standardized and closer to book values.

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Only bought one car from auction, nearly bought others. It was cheap and great.

I took a mechanic mate with me - he was interested in going, got a free trip (evening out and fed/watered/entertained watching me bid at the very end) and got to service / repair the car till it dropped.

Car auctions shold be fine is you keep to ex-lease, ex-finance amd sold as all good (sometimes warranted for etended periods for small pricec I believe as well). Will be cheaper than forecourt. Privae sales and old stuff sold as seen bit of a crap shoot.

There are also other auctions that cars turn up at - insolvency and company closure - won;t get the same fallback as being sold all good - not many companies keep really duff cars on their books though so some bargains to be had there is you are not picky at all about what make/model you are after - becuase so few go through. Car auction prices tend to be more standardized and closer to book values.

About ten years ago, I bought a Pug 405 for £180 all in at the auction in Westbury...lasted me nearly two years...a great buy...

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