Tips For Buying A Used Car

Whether you’re thinking about buying a used car from us at South Downs Car Sales or elsewhere, here are a few top tips for buying a used car. We cover servicing and MOT history, HPI checks and what you should look for when you see and test drive the car. We also cover the warranty that should be included and what advantages come with buying from a specialist used car dealer. 


Check the service history

One of the first things you’ll want to do is check that the car comes with a comprehensive service history. The ideal service frequency is a service every 12,000 to 20,000 miles. 

When we are buying cars to stock our site, this is the first thing that we look at. It’s amazing the number of cars that are out there with 40,000 to 50,000 miles that have only had one service. 

You can also look at the vehicle’s MOT history by checking This details the mileages for all previous MOTs on the vehicle. 

All of the cars that we sell come with a full service history and all of our services and MOTs are carried out by a trusted separate business rather than in house. This means that our customers can be sure that the work has been carried out impartially.  


HPI check

You’ll want to make sure that any second hand car you’re considering has had an HPI check to ensure that the car has not been an insurance loss, it has no outstanding finance from the previous owner and that it has never been stolen. 

A used car dealer will usually do this for you. All of the cars that we have in stock have been HPI checked and cleared to ensure our customers know exactly what they are buying.



Any used car for sale should come with a warranty to comply with retail law. This should clearly detail what is and isn’t covered, and should be with a reputable third party. If in doubt, do your research and check them out online. Very often, this may also include a complimentary breakdown cover. 

Despite comprehensive preparation of the car that you buy, they are complicated mechanical/electrical creatures and therefore do go wrong from time to time. This is where a friendly and supportive approach from the sales team and a good level of warranty helps to minimise the stress to all concerned should anything go wrong. 

This is why we offer a range of warranty products from the RAC, all of which can be extended to a term of three years. 


Test drive

Unless you are a very nervous driver always do a test drive of the vehicle. Even if you are nervous it is normally possible to take you somewhere a little quieter where there isn’t as much traffic. We always accompany our customers for a test drive for our insurance purposes.


Used Car Checklist

  • You’ll want to check the mileage of the vehicle and make sure this matches up with the number of services the car has received. While mileage doesn’t necessarily indicate the condition of a car, you might want to think carefully about buying a used car with very high mileage, especially if it shows signs of not having been carefully maintained.
  • Check that the car is supplied with a locking wheel nut key and that the car brace and jack, spare wheel (where appropriate) or inflator kit and fluid are present. Check the overall state of the tyres as well, including tread and inflation. 
  • Check the overall condition of the car. Are there any obvious signs of repair that you haven’t been made aware of? 
  • Make sure that you’re happy that the windows, windscreen wipers and lights are all working and check that all the gadgets work, such as the entertainment system. 
  • You should be able to check under the bonnet and make sure that things like the oil level is all correct. 


Vehicle Inspection

Should you wish to have a vehicle inspection carried out by a third party this should always be possible. These are available from a number of sources and should never be refused by the retailer unless they have something to hide!


Advantages of buying a used car from a specialist dealer

There are different places you could look to buy a used car. You could consider a dealership, an independent garage or privately. You may well be able to get a good deal if you’re buying privately, however, buying from a dealer offers much more peace of mind as the car will already have gone through a series of checks. 

High Quality Vehicles

A used car dealer will have scouted out the best used cars from main dealerships, auctions and even private sellers. For example, we’ve done some of the hard work for you as we only stock used cars which have low mileage, have only had one or two owners, a full service history and are HPI checked. We’ve handpicked the very best used cars on offer from a variety of trusted sources. 

Customer Care

A specialist dealer should also be able to answer any technical questions about the car, be aware of the car’s history and highlight any issues. Here at South Downs Car Sales, we have a professional and friendly team of experts who have over 50 years’ experience in the industry on hand to help with any questions you might have. We’ve already put our cars through a rigorous inspection process to make sure they are all in top condition. 


As well as the car getting a higher level of care prior to the sale, you also get a warranty which will protect you should something go wrong after you’ve purchased the car. Make sure you know exactly what is covered by the warranty and, more importantly, what isn’t. 


A used car dealer might also be able to offer you some attractive financing options if you don’t want to pay one large lump sum. For example, we are pleased to be able to offer our customers tailored and competitive finance packages such as personal loans, hire purchases, and personal contract purchases (PCP).  

Have You Got Any Questions?