Drivers dismiss used car checks

Only half of drivers (54%) check the service history and MOT documents before buying a used car, while only a third (36%) carry out a history check.

This is according to new research from AA Cars, the AA’s used car website. Its poll of more than 15,000 drivers found that most fail to carry out even basic checks when purchasing a secondhand car. This includes physical checks that are relatively simple for people to make and do not require any mechanical expertise.

Less than two in five drivers (38%) said they ensured that windscreen wipers were working when they last bought a used car, and only two in five (41%) checked that all the lights were functioning properly.

Only a quarter of drivers (25%) checked the oil level when they last bought a used car, while 39% inspected the tyres for cuts and bulges.

Overall, two in five (41%) drivers say they do not feel at all confident judging a car’s mechanical condition before purchasing, and only 11% say they feel very confident.

The checks most commonly carried out by drivers include inspecting the paintwork, with over half (57%) of drivers saying they did this when they last bought a second-hand car, and making sure the mileage, age and appearance of the car appear consistent. Three in five (66%) took a car for a test drive last time they bought a used vehicle, with over half (55%) listening out for abnormal noises.

James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars, said: “A car is an expensive purchase, but many drivers are parting with their money without carrying out even basic checks. Understandably, considering all the checks it is recommended that drivers make before buying a vehicle, most people do not feel very confident about their ability to judge a car’s condition before they drive away.

“You should always check the car’s MOT certificates and its full service history; together these documents will reveal how well the car has been maintained. Some other checks, such as ensuring windscreen wipers and lights are working properly, are easy for drivers to carry out.”