MotorMission is currently taking a break from the rigours of the motor trade and will be back sometime soon! We will still respond to emails but are not currently buying or selling any cars. We will be back in the future, just enjoying life for a little while!

FREE ADVICE ON BUYING A USED CAR and Part Exchange Explained:

Whether you buy from MotorMission or any other dealership or decide to buy privately we are happy to offer the following advice.

When buying a car your legal rights are generally determined by the method by which you buy the car and from whom you make the purchase. In broad terms your rights may be split between purchases from ‘traders in the course of their business’ or from ‘private individuals’.

For the vast majority of people this is going to mean either purchasing from a ‘dealer’ or from another person by private sale, although a large number of people are now making purchases from auctions.

Purchasing from a dealer

Generally regarded as the safest way of buying a car as the law affords the maximum protection against ‘dealers’. However it is worth noting that legal rights may only be enforced against a business which is still in existence and as such your extended legal rights will count for very little if the garage business has gone bust or mysteriously disappeared since you bought the vehicle.

Your rights

The car must confirm to any description it has been given or representation made regarding its condition or history – to this end if the car is described as having had a reconditioned engine fitted, and this should turn out not to be the case, then the car has failed to conform to its description or has been misrepresented and a claim for compensation or rejection/rescission might follow. The representation must have been made prior to the sale, relied upon and must have been a factor inducing the buyer to purchase the car.

The car must be of ‘satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose intended’ – the car must meet the standard expected for a vehicle of its description, price, age and mileage. A brand new vehicle should be in better condition than a 10 year old second-hand car. For example, a nearly new second-hand car purchased at premium market rates which, within a few days, develops a defect that would never usually appear on such a low-mileage vehicle, does not meet this standard. Failure to comply with this requirement (which cannot be excluded with signs such as ‘sold as seen’) is a breach of your rights, for which you may be entitled to compensation or your money back.

Whether you’re buying from a dealer, through a private sale or at an auction, always check the car’s log book or registration document to validate ownership, accuracy of age and mileage. Don’t rely on the MOT as evidence of a car’s condition.

  • Don’t buy a car without a V5 (registration document or log book) and don’t fall for the old ‘The paperwork’s at Swansea’ (the HQ of the DVLA) excuse.
  • Check that the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) quoted on the V5 matches those on the MOT certificate and the car: Look at the VIN plate on the engine, on the chassis – (and sometimes under the carpet to the right of the driver’s seat) – and any numbers etched on the windows.

Look for signs that these numbers and plates have been altered or tampered with.

  • Make sure that the registration plate matches the plate quoted on the MOT and V5.
  • Check that the person selling the car is the person named on the V5. If not, there may be a good reason but always ask why?Look for obvious signs of wear and tear, accident damage or rust, but be realistic – a 10-year-old car is quite likely to have a few minor rust spots.
  • Do all the panels match?
  • Are there any odd rippling or orange-peel effects?
  • Are there signs of overspray, ie on window seals?
  • Are the gaps between panels more or less equal, and do all the doors hang and open and shut correctly?
  • Look around the wheel-arches for signs of botched filler repair or corrosion. Often this will be hidden by a new plastic wheel-trim.

Inside the car:

  • If the seats are saggy and the steering wheel worn smooth, then the car’s a high-miler, whatever the mileometer (or the seller) says.
  • Other signs of high mileage include worn or missing pedal rubbers (or brand-new ones), a driver’s seatbelt that doesn’t retract properly, worn carpet under the driver’s mat, sagging or stained upholstery, damaged trim etc.
  • If the numbers on the clock (odometer or mileometer) don't line up properly, then it could have been tampered with.
  • Are the carpets wet, especially in the driver’s footwell? This could mean leaking windscreen seals, or holes in the bulkhead, floor or even the heater matrix.
  • Look in the boot, and lift up the carpet if possible. Are there any signs of welding? Or is the floor rippled from an impact?

Under the bonnet:

  • Look at both the front corners and down the sides for signs of welding or botched repair to the inner wings (also a chance to note down the VIN on the engine).
  • Look at the oil dipstick – is the oil golden-brown and clear, or black and lumpy? If it’s very lumpy or has white mayonnaise-like froth in it, then the engine may have been seriously neglected or the head gasket has gone.
  • Look at all the fluid containers – is there enough coolant in the radiator expansion tank? Is the brake fluid or gearbox oil low? And what about the power-steering fluid? This indicates whether the car has been well cared for.

A few basic checks under the bonnet will tell you a lot

The Test Drive

First, check out the engine

  • Does it fire up quickly? Check whether the car was warmed up and started before you arrived – the engine will be warm if it was).
  • Are there clouds of blue smoke from the exhaust?
  • Are there any odd tapping noises – especially those that speed up when the engine speeds up – metallic clunks and so on, and does the car tick over evenly when the driver’s foot is not on the throttle?

Set off on the drive

  • Make sure that you are insured to drive the car.
  • Does it pull away evenly?
  • Check that you can engage all the gears – don’t forget reverse – and that the car doesn’t jump out of gear.
  • In an automatic, feel for the changes in ratio and smoothness of acceleration – does the car jerk or lurch?
  • Find a steepish hill and accelerate in third: if the revs go up but the car doesn’t get any faster, then the clutch is on its way out.
  • Stop on the hill and apply the handbrake. Does it hold the car stationary?
  • Try the foot brakes (making sure that it is all clear behind). Does the car brake quickly and in a straight line?
  • Find a quiet area – an empty car park, if possible – and test the steering. Are there any clunks or grinding noises? Does the car wander, suddenly feel over-light to steer or pull to one side?
  • Keep an eye on the temperature gauge; this should climb to roughly halfway and stay there. Going into the red is not normal.
  • Listen out for any odd noises: clunks when braking or knocking sounds from the steering column.
  • Look for blue smoke from the exhaust – but don’t look too close because fumes are harmful.

Check Everything Works:

  • Try out all the electrics: windows, air-conditioning (where fitted), heater, radio, etc.
  • If the car has ABS anti-lock brakes, make sure the warning light on the dashboard goes out quickly after the engine is turned on; look for any other warning lights, ie for airbags, that don’t go out.
  • Make sure all the locks and door handles work properly, and be suspicious of any car that has different keys for the doors, ignition, boot and petrol cap.
  • If you are looking at a relatively modern car with an immobiliser, make sure that you will get the master key, often the red one. • Check that the seats fold, swivel (where appropriate) and adjust correctly, and are properly anchored to the base of the car, and that all the seatbelts fasten and retract correctly.

You can always print this off and take it with you when you look at cars.


or at least we try to!

People often ask us how part exchange prices are worked out. We thought it may be useful to explain how it works and how we get to the prices we offer.

Buying a car can be a minefield and we aim to take the mystery out of it. Please feel free to ask us any questions about how the industry works and if we can help we will.

People are often surprised by the part exchange value offered on their car, hopefully some of the information below will show how prices are reached.

There are a number of “guides” available to the industry, the main ones are CAP and Glasses. For the private consumer there is There is usually a variation in what they all think , they are just guides and not something that is set in stone. Mostly it is dealer experience.

We often hear “I was offered “X” from a main dealer, why are you offering less?”
It is not unusual for a dealer who has had a car for a little too long to offer over value on your car to make the deal sound very attractive. For example, he has a car which has now been in stock for 25 days. He has paid for advertising, a valet and any required preparation to get the car to a standard he is happy to sell at. So far it hasn’t sold and then you come along. Your car is worth £6000 as a px but he wants to get out of the car he has and hasn’t been able to sell so he offers you £7000 to make the deal seem really good to you. Beware the deal which makes your part exchange sound good! Better to get a realistic value on your car and haggle over the price of the new one.

It is normal for anyone to look on and get a feel for what their car is worth. Lets assume you have seen cars like yours on sale at up to £8000. You then get offered £6000 for your car as a part exchange, this comes as a bit of a is why:

  • Firstly a dealer may have your car up to 3 months. That is the maximum most dealers will hold a car for. They have “invested” £6000 of their float (available cash) in your car so it has to earn a return in that 3 months. Whilst a dealer is holding that car the money tied up cant be used to buy, and then sell, any other cars. For example £6000 could have been used to buy and sell 3 cheap starter cars and make @£500 on each.
  • ALSO…..of any profit a dealer makes on any used car he will have to pay 20% VAT and, on whats left, he has to pay 33% corporation tax at the end of the year. So all of a sudden what was a £2000 margin, less advertising costs, less a valet, less any prep costs like tyres, paintwork, polish etc, less VAT, less corporation tax is now under a £900 net profit.

There are also other factors a dealer has to consider. There are regional variations, a rural dealer will do better with 4x4 stock and therefore offer more than a city dealer. A convertible is worth more in Spring and an electric car will probably sell better in a city.

It is also worth knowing that you don’t have to trade your car in with the dealer you are aiming to buy from. For example; you have a 2 year old Ford Fietsta with 15k miles on it, you approach a small independent dealer and the part exchange value isn’t attractive. It is then worth speaking to a few Ford Main dealers close to you. They can put the Fiesta on their forecourt for more than an independent dealer so may offer a stronger price to buy. Just call the dealership and ask for their buyer. The same applies to cars which are too old or too higher mileage for main dealers, have a look locally for dealers specializing in the car you have. Sometimes you are more attractive as a cash buyer than with a part exchange so just a few calls can save you hundreds! The key thing with part exchange is be accurate in the details you give over the phone, there is no point telling a dealer your car is immaculate and getting a price based on that as you will be disappointed when you turn up and he sees the car and starts picking holes in it.



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