Buying a banger: Ten tips for students getting a car

A CHEAP car could help make trips between digs to campus all the quicker - and make getting home to mum with your laundry bag nice and easy

Buying a second hand car can be a minefield. Picture: Contributed
Buying a second hand car can be a minefield. Picture: Contributed
Buying a second hand car can be a minefield. Picture: Contributed

Buying a second-hand car can be a minefield, particularly if your more comfortable with your nose in a book rather than under a bonnet.

Here are some pitfalls to look out for - and some tips to insure you don’t throw away those precious funds in a money pit.

Be careful where you buy from

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It’s always better to go to a trusted name but you’ll probably be looking through the small ads for a car you can afford. Go and see the car with a friend or relative and don’t take cash with you on the first look. You never know who you’ll be meeting.

Don’t be pressured

It’s hard not to be led into a sale when the seller seems legit and you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Take your time to think about whether you really want it. You might miss out but the right car at the right price will come along.

Don’t view a car in the rain, in poor light or at night

A good tip here from the AA. You won’t be able to check the condition of the car properly if it’s wet – water hides scratches, dents and other problems. Make sure you can see the vehicle clearly and from all angles.

Invest in a car data check

It can costs as little as £2 but this simple on-line tool will unearth the total history of the car you fancy buying. Using the car’s number plate, it will nail down whether the car is stolen, have outstanding finance or previousl plates, and whether it has been written off by insurance companies in the past. It could also determine whether it has been “clocked” and someone has wound back the mileometer. Every 1,000 miles removed increases the value substantially.

Budget carefully

The price of the car is just the start of it. You need isurance and car tax too and both can vary wildly depending on the car you are buying. If you’re going to borrow money to buy the car it’s a good idea to get loan quotes before you go out on viewing. That way you’ll know what you can afford and will be able to tell whether any finance a dealer offers you is good value or not.

Don’t be rippped off

You can look up the “book price” of a car online which will tell you the value of the exact car you are after, based on the number plate. The book price is used by insurers and is the best guide on offer. Compare asking prices in classified so you get a feel for the value of different cars to avoid being overcharged.

Ask about service history

Most cars require some work during the year so the owners of a car a few years old should have amassed quite a collection of garage bills for work or parts as well as previous MOT certificates, and records of regular servicing. If there is noservice history, approach with caution, Every car will have been to the garage at some point. Also make sure the car handbook is there. It something that will be asked for when the time comes to sell your car on.

Ask for the V5C registration document

Insist on this bit of paperwork as it this shows the registered keeper and not the legal owner. Why would someone be selling the car for someone else? You really don’t want a stolen car on your hands.


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If the car is three years old or more make sure there’s a continuous series of annual MOT certificates. If you know the vehicle’s registration number and the document reference on the V5C

Use your head

Be wary of anything that seems like a real bargain, or has a very low mileage for its age. There are bargains to be had but in general, if a deal looks too good to be true then it most likely is.