How Safe is your Second-hand Car Purchase?

By: Elisha Burberry

Whenever you consider buying a second-hand car, one of the first things you'll want to know is that your purchase is mechanically sound. It is no good having everything you want in a car; such as a luxurious interior, a great MP3 player and the right colour exterior if it is a lemon, when it comes to its mechanical status.

Unless you are a mechanic, or have one in the family or as a close friend you will probably have to turn to the AA or RAC, who both offer independent vehicle inspections for a reasonable fee. Or, you could take the chance that the car is as sound as it looks and buy 'as seen'. But, don't forget the old Latin phrase 'caveat emptor', literally translated as 'buyer beware', that normally applies when it comes to buying second hand cars. Unless you are buying from a garage that offers a warranty, purchasing a second-hand car involves a great deal of risk, so do your utmost to minimise that risk and protect your investment.

Also, bear in mind that legislation requires any car, motorcycle or light goods vehicle over three years old to undergo an inspection known as an MOT (Ministry of Transport) before it can be legally driven on the roads. MOT testing is designed to check whether the car is mechanically sound to be driven on public highways, at the time of testing. An MOT test normally takes around 45 minutes and if the car passes the tests, a certificate that is valid for one year is issued for the vehicle. However, possession of a valid MOT certificate is not a guarantee that the vehicle will not require major work in the near future.

And remember, even if the second-hand car you are intending to buy is less than three years old and isn't required to have an MOT certificate, it is still worth getting an independent vehicle inspection carried out. It might seem like yet another cost; an expense that you might consider unnecessary, but in the long run could save you thousands. Especially, as cars around two to three years old are likely to have all the original components that will need replacing over the next year or two such as brake pads, suspension bars, tyres, clutches, and the list goes on.

There are no guarantees when buying any second-hand vehicle. However, ensuring that you get your vehicle inspected by an accredited mechanic or road organisation, such as the RAC or AA will help allay your fears, or even expose the vehicle as totally unsuitable for purchase. Can you afford to take the risk?

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