How to Find the Perfect Car

Once you finish researching all of the vehicles that suit your needs and you determine which one is, for you, the perfect car, it is easy to let excitement drive you too quickly down the road to purchase.

Before rushing ahead, take time to think about whether the car you are viewing is really everything you hope it is.

If you have used an online used car service like Autotrader or Craigslist because you wish to avoid a dealership, that’s great but it does come with an added risk.

Of course, that risk isn’t completely removed when going to a dealership, but if you find one that is suitably reputable then you mitigate the problems somewhat and have some recourse to complain and fix any issues.

Buying a car from a private seller can be great – if the seller has a real motivation to move the car on you can pick up a superb deal. But it can go wrong and you have no way to come back if your new car has problems that weren’t disclosed.

Make sure you consider these things before rushing ahead with any deals that seem too good to be true.

Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI)

A Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) is a great way to avoid unforeseen problems. It will cost you a little, but having a mechanic come out to give the vehicle a once-over is a great way to give yourself peace of mind before buying, and anyone who has nothing to hide isn’t going to make having a PPI a problem in any way.

If the inspection does flag up any issues, you can either pass on the car (often the best thing to do, especially if those problems were being obscured by the seller), or you can negotiate a far more suitable price.

If you have a mechanic that you trust, then you should ask them to perform the PPI for you, if not, then both the AA and RAC have services to do this for you. Failing that, speak to local dealerships to see who they would recommend.


If the car looks too good to be true, it probably is. You might have found that new model for half the expected asking price, but there’s a big chance that there’s something wrong, especially if the seller doesn’t offer a full history.

Be wary of salvaged titles. This means the car was in a serious car accident and there may be unseen internal structural damage. As nice as it looks on the outside, the frame may have suffered irreparable damage. Be very cautious if this is the case.

Vehicle History Reports

If you buy from a dealership, you can expect a full history report. A private seller has no such need to provide the information but you should insist on seeing everything they have. An HPI report, the UK equivalent of the US Carfax system will give you a history of the car for a few pounds and could save you the pain and embarrassment of buying a car with a chequered past.

You should be able to see a full service history and any accidents or incidents the car has been involved in.

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