7 Warning Signs to Look Out for When Buying a Second-Hand Car

Thinking of buying a second-hand car? In this article, we explain seven things to look out for when doing so…

With the prices of cars continuing to rise, many people look for a second-hand car when searching for their new vehicle. By doing so, they can save money while still getting an upgrade.

However, despite the benefits, buying second-hand can be a gamble. How do you know you can trust the seller? Are you being scammed? Will you have to pay for repairs as soon as you get the car?

Unfortunately, things like mis-sold car finance are becoming more and more common, especially in second-hand cars. But there are ways that you can spot warning signs and avoid making a costly mistake. In this article, we explore seven warning signs to look out for, so you don’t go in blind…

What is Mis-Sold Car Finance?

Miss-selling car finance is when you are given poor advice or not told important information about a car you are planning to buy. This commonly leads to buyers purchasing a car that needs a ton of repairs, or one that doesn’t do what was advertised. 

If you are a victim of mis-sold car finance, there are ways to resolve the situation. Collect all the information and evidence that you have that you have been mis-sold a car finance deal and show it to the dealer. Also, contact the Financial Ombudsman Service, or speak to a solicitor to make a claim. 

Preventing this before having to seek help is the key. Confused.com provides some advice to watch out for, so you don’t fall into this trap. Here, we provide some key pointers to look out for before buying so you don’t get fleeced:

7 Warning Signs to Look Out for When Buying a Second-Hand Car

  • Leaks 

When buying a second-hand car, one of the basic things you should keep an eye out for are any fluids in strange places. Check around the engine, and under the car for any sign of a leak.

When looking under the car, watch for any oil, sludge, or smudges on the tarmac. If there is, it suggests that the engine is excessively oily or leaking. Likewise, when checking the engine there are few things you should check for:

  • Brown puddles of oil.
  • Any strangely coloured liquid, e.g., green, or pink, that suggests the antifreeze is leaking.
  • A reddish-brown liquid that may it may be a problem with the gearbox or power steering. 

A leak may not be a deal breaker for you, but it will need to be looked at by a professional. You should either request that the seller fixes it, or ask for money off the car and get it repaired yourself. 

  • Signs of Rust

When examining the vehicle, keep your eyes open for any rust. Although it may seem like a small issue, rust can really damage the car and is very expensive to fix. 

The most common places to find rust are in the wheel wells, the frame rails under the car doors, the suspension, and any exposed metal under the car. It normally appears as paint bubbles before completely rusting through.

If there is only a little rust, you may be able to solve the problem with a bit of sanding. But, you should always consult a professional to ensure that the damage hasn’t spread further. 

  • Blue, Black, or White Exhaust Smoke 

One warning sign to look out for when buying a second-hand car is black, blue, or white exhaust smoke. Leave the engine running for a few minutes and have a look at the exhaust.

Black smoke indicates that the car’s engine is burning way too much fuel. This is easily fixed, but you should get it checked by a professional to make sure you have found the cause of it. 

Buying a car that is emitting blue smoke might end up costing you a heavily. The blue smoke is caused by oil getting into the car’s cylinders suggesting that there are issues with the engine’s internal seals or even a blown head gasket. Both these issues will cost a lot to repair.

Many people disregard white smoke as steam, and in some cases, it might not be a cause for alarm. However, if the car is pumping out a large amount of white smoke, it may be a failure in the head gasket where coolant has managed to get into the cylinders. 

  • An Odometer Mileage That Doesn’t Match the Vehicle History Report

A huge warning sign when buying a second-hand car is if the odometer mileage does not match the vehicle’s history report. For example, if the last time the car was serviced it had 100,000 miles on its clock and now only 60,000 miles are showing, that is a huge red flag. You should also check for excessive wear on the pedals, gearstick, seats, etc. 

  • Damage to the Gearbox and Clutch

It is always recommended that you test drive a car before you buy it. One of the reasons why is to check that the gearbox and the clutch are functioning properly. 

Give the gearbox a try to confirm that all the gear changes are fluid with no grinding sounds or resistance. Check each gear to ensure that every single one is working smoothly. Even if the car is manual, you should take the time to check it is working.  

For the clutch, you should look to see where the biting point is. Ideally, the biting point should be right be in the middle when pushing your foot down on the peddle. If not, the clutch may need adjusting or replacing.

  • Faulty Electronics

A car will contain many types of electronics like lights, windows, door locks, air conditioning, etc. To avoid buying a car and then only realising the heating doesn’t work when it gets to winter, you should take the time to check the electronics in the car before you buy. 

Make a checklist of all the electronic elements of the car you would expect to be working and go through it. Ensure the radio will turn on, check the headlights are bright with an unbroken beam, lock and unlock the car door, and take the time to wind the windows up and down to insure everything is in order.  

  • Deflated Tyres and Other Damage to the Wheels

Before you buy, have a look at the vehicle’s tyres and wheels. If they look too worn out, you should try to get a reduction on the overall price of the car, because it’s likely that you will have to replace them in the near future. 

Check each wheel for large dents or bends in the rims. A slight scratch isn’t too much of a problem, but more serious damage will require replacing or a costly repair.

For the tyres, keep your eye out for any splits, bulges, or punctures that might suggest the tyre will need to be changed. Another warning sign to look for is uneven wear on the tyre that suggests there is an issue with the suspension alignment.

Make Sure to Check Your Second-Hand Care Before Buying

When buying a second-hand car, you should always keep your eyes open for these warning signs. If the damage is excessive or the situation doesn’t feel right, save your money. However, if there are only a few simple repairs that need attending to, you may just want to renegotiate the price.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only. Be sure to consult a legal advisor if you believe you are a victim of mis-sold car finance. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.


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