With getting loans and other types of finance proving difficult for most families because of the current economic climate, buying a new car just isn’t an option.

Buying a used car is also a great way to reduce the cost of your driving as most new cars lose around 40% of their value in the first year, anyway, and keep drpreciating quite quickly in the next two years after that.

But there are risks so it’s important to take your time rather than rush into any deal – here are some tips to help you:

Car cloning
Sometimes one car is given the identity of another by replacing the number plates with those from an almost identical vehicle – same make, model and colour. That’s why it’s important that you do a HPI check before you part with your cash – they cost around £10-15, and is money well spent.

A HPI check will also help with ‘cut-and-shut’ jobs – when two or more cars, which have usually been accident–damaged and written off by insurers, are welded together, then illegally given the identity of one of the wrecks.

Budget carefully – and stick to your budget
Get insurance quotes and check car tax rates before buying, and remember to factor in the cost of any work that might be needed, too when you bargain for a price. You can use insurance comparison sites to get a good idea of what the insurance on the car will cost you.

Do your homework on the type of car you want before viewing
Check price guides and compare similar cars in the classifieds so you know as much as you can about the value of different cars to avoid being ripped off. Go on car buying websites, and check the Glassex directory to see what the car you are buying is really worth market wide.

Websites like www.honestjohn.co.uk and model-specific forum sites can be a useful source of information on ‘common’ faults and ‘what to look for’ tips but bear in mind that the few who’ve had a poor experience are likely to be more outspoken than satisfied customers.

Don’t view a car in the rain, in poor light or at night
To make an informed decision before you buy a car, make sure you only see it in the best possible weather conditions. “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”, advises John Timson of http://carsales.com.au/.

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 few of garage invoices and receipts for work or parts, as well as previous MOT certificates, and service records. If there’s no service history then ask why.

Check the MOT history
If the car is three years old or more make sure there’s a continuous series of annual MOT ‘certificates’ with the service history. If the MOT certificate is missing, check the MOT history with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency’s (VOSA’s) MOT status line on 0870 330 0444 – you can do this if you have the car’s registration number and the document reference on the V5C.

Make sure the handbook is in the car as they can be expensive to replace if not. Make sure the security system works – find out what keys were provided when the car was new. Modern car keys can cost upwards of £100 to replace, so if you need more than one key (if you and hubby share a car, for example) and there’s only one available you’ll need to bear that cost in mind.

Test drives are a must!
This goes without saying, but the test drive is your only opportunity to check the car’s general mechanical condition and to find our for sure that it meets all your needs. Don’t let your heart rule your head once you’re in the car – be looking out to check the following:

  • Do the child seats fit – and can it accommodate a different car seat if your chil(ren) will change car seats in the future?
  • Is the car comfortable to drive?
  • Can you reach/operate all the controls easily?
  • Does the golf bag or pushchair fit in the boot? Will it be able to fit with shopping in toe?
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