The Complete Car Buying Guide

This is the definitive guide to buying a car in the UK.

Most of the time, buying a car is a massive investment, regardless of if you’re getting a car new from a manufacturer or if you’re getting a used car from a dealership. Not only can buying a car be a considerable expense, but it can also be a tough and challenging process, especially if you’re buying a car for the first time. 

You need to think about and consider many things to help you purchase the right car for you in the right way. To help make sure that you’re getting behind the wheel of the perfect car, here’s a highly detailed guide that will break down every aspect of the car buying process. 

If you’re unsure about the different finance options you have when buying a car, don’t know where’s best to purchase a vehicle, or aren’t aware of the various documentation and insurance you need for a new car, this guide from Car Adviser should clear up any confusion. 

In this guide

Different Types of Cars You Can Buy

When you begin your search for a new car, you first need to consider the many options you have in terms of what type you can get. Cars vary a lot, and many choices exist, making it tough to narrow down and find your perfect vehicle. Here are a few ways cars can differ from each other and how each variation affects the final product.

Body type


With a lot of manufacturers, each with their own models and versions, there’s a lot of variety within the market. Cars come in multiple shapes and sizes, from saloon cars to estate vehicles, and the body type will influence your experience with your car. 

Here’s a quick overview of the different body types that you can get and the critical features of each to help you figure out which one best suits your desires and needs: 

City cars 

City cars are typically the smallest car you’ll find in the UK. Due to being small, they’re designed to work well in tight streets and narrow lanes, which you’ll find more in cities and large towns.

Key features of city cars are that they usually have very short bumpers to save space and wheels that are pushed out to the very edges of the chassis. They also typically have as large a cabin area that can fit into the small frame to be a viable option for families. 

The main reason people get a city car is that it’s easier to drive in the city and congested areas. Due to its compact nature, parking is more manageable, and manoeuvers are also less complicated due to the typically tight steering. That said, a significant downside is that there’s not a lot of room in city cars, meaning that you won’t be able to carry much.


Superminis are a trendy body shape for cars in the UK. These can be considered halfway between city cars and larger hatchbacks, as they’re still compact but fit four passengers more comfortably than smaller options. They also usually have larger boots, meaning that more luggage can be put in them. 

Superminis are typically lightweight cars, meaning they’re more agile and responsive when moving, which is a huge selling point. These cars are best suited to drivers who want something easy to drive but don’t want to compromise too much on space and comfort.


Hatchbacks are a larger body type of car and are well suited for families because they have a decent amount of space. A key feature of a hatchback is that the boot lid and rear windscreen are one unit that moves together. 

Some popular hatchback models include the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, two reliable and classic cars. People like to use hatchbacks because they’re trustworthy, usually perform well, and last a long time. 

The only issue with a hatchback is that you’ll have to choose between storage space and passenger space, so you’ll have to figure out what is important for you. 


A Mini-MVP is a type of body type that is a little bit more practical than a hatchback yet isn’t as premium or expensive as a typical saloon or estate car. 

These cars are defined by a raised driving position, meaning you can see more of the road ahead. They’re also a lot easier to get in and out of and have hip-height seat bases, making them a popular choice for older drivers and those with children. 

The main downside of a Mini-MVP is that some models can be considered a little awkward looking, especially the taller options. If you’re looking for style, Mini-MVPs may not be the right choice for you.  


MVPs are larger vehicles that are great for families as they provide a lot of space and practicality. They often have seven seats, making them great for transporting many people, and for most, the rear seats can fold flat to create a sizeable van-like loading bay. 

Although it’s larger, the vehicle drives like a car while giving you some benefits of getting a van. They’re very similar to SUVs – another large vehicle type – however, they have reduced running costs. 

The issue with MVPs is that they’re usually styled on smaller body types; thus, they can look unnatural and bloated versions of the smaller cars. They’re also usually a bit more expensive to buy. 


Saloon cars are usually associated with the more premium brands in the UK, but they typically come in various shapes and sizes, making them hard to define. 

They’re defined as ‘three-box’ cars, meaning they have a separate engine bay, cabin, and boot.

Saloon cars are considered comfortable to drive, thanks to their longer-than-average wheelbases, which give them more legroom. Their boot shape can mean there’s not as much storage space as some other brands.


Estate cars are modelled on saloon cars or hatchbacks but are usually longer than these other options. A key way to spot an estate car is that the rear window is a bit more elongated and stretches to the boot lid, increasing the cargo space. 

This is the main advantage of an estate car, but another is that many drivers prefer their look due to their longer roof space. It all comes down to personal preference, and in truth, they are similar to hatchbacks and saloon cars. 


Coupes are one of the more stylish types of cars and can be defined by the curved roof that gives them an elegant look. These cars are usually only two-door, which may not be as practical as other models. Thankfully, some manufacturers also make four-door coupes, helping to blend the aesthetic appeal of a coupe with the practicality of a saloon car. 

Coupes also sit lower to the ground, which can help give an illusion of speed when you’re driving them. The curved roof can mean that there’s not a lot of headroom in these cars, meaning they may not be great for tall owners or passengers. 

4x4s and off-roaders 

These types of cars are designed to be driven both on-road and capable of traversing off-road terrain. Because of these, they’re typically pretty large and powerful, adopting a square-like shape. 

These cars typically bolt their components to a massive frame, making them very sturdy. Designed mainly for those that want to go off-road, they’re also a good option for those looking for a lot of space for passengers and storage. 

These cars aren’t as agile to drive and can be hard to steer. They’re also pretty heavy and use up a lot of fuel, meaning they can cost a lot.


SUVs are large cars with a lot of space for passengers and storage. They’re similar to 4v4s, with the key difference being that they’re only designed for roads. This means that they’re much more comfortable driving than other large cars and are stable at high speeds. 

They best suit those living in open spaces and may struggle in the cities due to their size.  


A simple way to describe a convertible is that it’s a coupe with its roof removed and replaced with a fabric or metal cover. Because of this, these cars can retract the roof, meaning that in good weather, you can drive without a roof and feel the sunshine on you. 

These cars are pretty stylish and are desirable for many. They’re fun to drive and usually have good speed and performance. That said, they’re generally not as practical as other options and have minimal boot space because they need to store the retractable roof.

If you’re getting a car for a family, this may not be the best option as it might not be too comfortable.

Fuel type


Passenger car registrations in the United Kingdom between 2018 and 2021, by fuel type – Statista

The body type of a car isn’t the only way that cars can differ from each other. In addition, the vehicles available on the market can also have various fuel types. This means that a specific car can be fueled differently from another. 

It’s worth considering which fuel type is best for your situation, as what you choose can impact how you use your car and how much it costs to run and operate it. For example, diesel is one of the most expensive fuel types you can get, with the average price of a litre of diesel costing much more than a litre of petrol. This can make filling up a petrol car more expensive. Plus, diesel cars typically have a much lower fuel economy, meaning you will be filling up more often too. 

You should also consider your fuel type carefully if you live within London or other UK cities implementing a low emission zone. This is because some cars with a high emission rate due to their fuel type may have to pay daily charges to drive in certain areas. Currently, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London charges £12.50 a day if you enter the regulated area with a non-compliant vehicle. If you live or work in a low emission zone, it may suit you better to opt for a ULEZ exempt car, electric or hybrid to ensure that your emissions are low. 

Here’s a more detailed look at each of the main fuel types: 


Out of the two fuel types that use fossil fuel, petrol is the most widely used in the UK. Petrol is made from distilling petroleum and is used within the internal combustion engine of a car to create energy. 

When a car is powered by petrol, a mix of fuel and air is injected into the vehicle’s chamber. When compressed, this ignites the spark plug, which then starts the car. 

Petrol cars are usually more fuel efficient when compared to diesel. You’ll likely get more mileage per litre and thus will have to fill up less frequently. Plus, petrol is regularly cheaper than diesel, making it a good economic choice. The only issue is that petrol cars typically lack power, and this fuel type is often favoured for smaller, more agile vehicles.


Diesel is another reasonably popular fuel type and will commonly be used for larger vehicles or cars that are designed for longer journeys. Diesel is made out of crude oil, and when put into a fuel system, it is compressed by the engine pistons. This compression creates double the amount of pressure created in a petrol car, meaning that the engine gets much hotter and thus burns the fuel when injected into the engine. 

Although buying and running a diesel car can often be more expensive than petrol, they are seen to be more reliable cars on average. This is because the engines of diesel cars are more robust. As they’re designed to withstand higher pressures and temperatures, they usually last longer and are harder to break. 


Electric-powered vehicles are multiplying in popularity, availability, and viability and are now one of the most popular ways to fuel your car. Electric cars are powered entirely by a battery and require no fossil fuels. This means that it’s a much cleaner fuel type with virtually no emission. These vehicles that use electricity are perfect for those driving in low-emission areas, such as London’s ULEZ. You can find out more about the ULEZ and how to check if a car is ULEZ compliant here.

As they’re powered by electricity, these cars are typically less powerful, as they can’t rely on combustion. That said, electric vehicles are getting better after each iteration and now drive and perform in a similar way to traditional cars. 

One past criticism of electric cars is that they need charging regularly and run out of juice much quicker than a fuel tank would. In recent years electric vehicles are becoming more efficient and can go further on a single charge. Plus, more fuel charging stations are appearing in the UK, making them much more convenient to own. 

If you’re considering buying a new car, it may be worth getting an electric one. This is because new petrol and diesel car sales will be outlawed in 2030, so it may be worth getting ahead of the curve and a compliant vehicle.


A hybrid car is a vehicle that can be considered a mix between a petrol car and an electric car. These cars have a traditional engine and an electric motor which both work together to give you the horsepower of a conventional car while still being energy efficient and low emission. 

With hybrid cars, you can choose to power it fully with electricity or use the engine to assist it. The engine can also charge the electric motor and harnesses the energy created through braking. This makes it last even longer. This means the average mileage you can obtain is more than 100% electric cars. 

Hybrid vehicles will be the best option for people who want to experience the power and driving experience of a traditional vehicle while also contributing to lower emissions. These cars are perfect for those that regularly drive in low-emission zones.

A word on misfuelling

When you get petrol, diesel or even a hybrid car, you need to be cautious about the possibility of misfuelling your car. Misfuelling is when you use the wrong fuel type for your vehicle, such as putting diesel in a petrol car. 

Misfuelling can be really damaging for your car, especially if you don’t spot it early and drive even a short distance with the wrong fuel. Having the wrong fuel can cause your engine to erode, cause total engine failure, and damage components in your fuel system, such as the filter. 

Fixing an engine that’s been damaged by misfuelling can be pretty expensive, depending on the extent of the damage. As well as this, it’s an issue you’ll likely have to pay for yourself, even if you have insurance and a warranty. This is because misfuelling is considered accidental damage, which isn’t covered by most providers. 

If you realise that you’ve misfuelled, you first need to turn your car off and not drive it. If you haven’t driven your car, it can be possible to have your engine and fuel system drained and flushed to remove the wrong fuel. 

You can learn more about what to do and how to avoid misfuelling here on Car Adviser, regardless of if you’ve put diesel in a petrol car or petrol in a diesel car

New Cars Vs. Used Cars

In addition to getting a car in different shapes that use different fuel types, you also have the choice to buy a car brand new from a manufacturer or buy a car from the second-hand market that’s been owned and used by someone else. 

Each option has benefits and negatives and will suit different circumstances and situations. Here’s a look at what you can expect when buying a new or a used car: 

New Cars

A new car hasn’t been owned by anyone and hasn’t been driven at all. New cars are usually bought directly from a manufacturer’s official showroom. As a result of being new, they’re generally pretty expensive, and often a manufacturer will charge a fair bit for you to add extra features. 

Despite the price of new cars, a few benefits can be found when getting a brand-new vehicle. The first is that because it’s not been driven or used before, it will be in fantastic condition. Not only will it look good, but the internal components will also have no wear and tear, meaning they will perform well and likely last a long time. 

When getting a new car, you also can customise the specifications of the car to your wants and needs. This can make the car feel more tailored to you, making it much more comfortable. These customisation options will cost you, so you can only tinker as much as your budget affords. 

In addition, getting a new car is also good because you’ll likely be offered a free warranty. This article will go into warranties in more detail later on, but essentially a warranty is an agreement where the provider will cover the costs of repairs and faults. A warranty from a manufacturer that you get when it’s new typically lasts between 2-5 years, with some going as far as seven years. This means that you can get significant protection for your car. 

Buying a new car will also usually give you access to additional perks. For example, a new car dealership may also offer free MOTs and services, or discounts on other things, making the experience and product a bit more value for money.

Despite all the benefits, the most significant negative about buying new is that once you have the car, its value will drop massively. The second you leave with a new car, it’ll fall in value by at least 25%. In fact, a new car decreases in value by around 20-30% a year, and after three years, a new car will only be worth around 40% of its original price. 

This is terrible news if you want to sell your car in the future, as it will be impossible to regain an amount similar to what you originally paid for the car.

Nearly new cars

A nearly new car is a type of used car. However, for a vehicle to be considered nearly new, it can’t be older than 12 months and must have a low number of mileage on the clock. This number can change, but typically it’ll be under 5,000 miles. 

Getting a nearly new car is a great option for many reasons. The first is that it’s cheaper than buying a brand-new car. This is because its value would have dropped by at least 20% from its original price due to how a car depreciates in value. This means that you can get excellent savings. 

Plus, with nearly new cars being under a year old, you can expect them to still be in excellent condition, making this a trustworthy type of car to buy. These cars will still be in their original warranty period, meaning that if you come across faults, they will be covered. 

The main issue with nearly new cars is that there’s a small market for them, and there is not much choice compared to new or used cars. This is because the criteria to be considered nearly new are very strict, and not many people will sell or get rid of their vehicles within a year of owning them. 

Some sellers specialise in nearly new and young cars, with Motorpoint being an excellent place to get a car because they’re all under four years old.  

Used cars

When buying a car, most people in the UK will buy it used. There are many reasons why buying a used car is so popular, the most apparent being that used cars are the cheapest you can get on the market. In fact, a used car that’s only three years old should be worth less than half the price of a new vehicle. 

Used cars offer good value for money, but you need to make sure you’re buying from the right places to increase your chances of getting a reliable vehicle. Many used car dealers, both online and in-person, refurbish used cars before selling them. When you buy a car with these vendors, you can trust that the vehicle is in good condition. 

However, be aware that because used cars can be older, they are at more risk of issues and faults due to wear and tear. Before you buy a used car, be sure to give it a good inspection and also look at its history to see if it has a past of frequent breakdowns and issues. 

A word on write-offs

When buying a used car, some cars you view may be registered as write-offs, and it’s essential to understand what this means. 

A write-off is a vehicle that has been damaged, typically in a collision, and has been deemed too expensive to repair. Usually, when a car is damaged, the insurance provider will pay for it to be fixed and then return it to the owner. However, a write-off car will usually have expensive damage, meaning that it’s discarded, and the owner is given a replacement vehicle. 

Once written off, a car will then be given one of four possible categories. These categories indicate the damage’s extent and dictate what can be done with the written-off car. The categories are as follows: 

Cat A cars

This category is for the most severely damaged cars that have been written off. For a car to get a Cat A, the insurer would have deemed it impossible to repair the car safely. As a result, if a car is given a Cat A, it is considered unsafe for the road and isn’t allowed to be repaired. Instead, a Cat A car needs to be scrapped and destroyed. 

The damage to a Cat A car is so bad that even the parts within a car cannot be stripped out and reused or sold. To ensure that Cat A cars don’t enter the second hand market, a certificate must be obtained by the owner of a Cat A car to say that it has been appropriately scrapped and destroyed. 

As a result of their fate to the scrap yard, Cat A cars are also known as scrap cars within the motor industry.

A car is likely to become a Cat A car if it’s been involved in a highspeed, heavy impact crash, has been engulfed in a fire, or has been flooded. The damage done to a Cat A car needs to be across the whole vehicle, with there being no areas of salvage.

Cat B cars

Cat B cars are write-off cars that are pretty similar to Cat A. Both types of cars have sustained so much damage that they can’t be safely repaired, meaning they’re not allowed to be sold on and will never be deemed roadworthy. 

The crucial difference between Cat B and Cat A is that a Cat B car can be stripped for parts. This means that various components of a Cat B car can be removed and either used to repair another vehicle or sold on to someone else. Removing parts from a car to sell them is known as breaking, and because of this, Cat B cars are also known as break cars. 

Almost any part of a Cat B car can be removed and sold, providing it’s in a good enough condition. Things like the gearbox, steering wheel, headlights, brake system, and even car panels can be removed and sold on, as long as they’re undamaged and still work. 

The only thing you can’t sell from a Cat B car is any part considered structural. As a result, most people with a Cat B car will strip what they can for parts, sell them on, and then scrap the rest of the car for extra cash. 

Cat S cars

A Cat S car has been written off due to damage but is one where mechanics can fully repair it. This means Cat S cars can be sold on the second-hand market, providing they’ve been repaired to a good standard. 

What defines a Cat S car is structural damage that has occurred to the car. This means the only damage to a Cat S car will be to places like its chassis, the centre and front pillar of the car, and all the vehicle rails. Items like the steering wheel, brakes, and even the suspension aren’t considered structural, so they wouldn’t have been damaged on a Cat S car.

If a car has been given a Cat S in its lifetime, it needs to be disclosed when it’s sold. If a used car that you’re interested in is a Cat S, you should make sure that you do checks on it to ensure it was repaired to a good standard, as Cat S cars are at greater risk of breaking down or being less safe to drive.

Cat N cars

Cat N cars are similar to Cat S vehicles in that they’re write-off cars deemed repairable. This means that you may purchase vehicles that were given a Cat N when searching for a used car. 

What makes a Cat N car different from Cat S is that the damage it’s received was likely very minimal, and crucially, wasn’t to any parts that make up the structural frame. As a result of the damage in a Cat N likely being minimal and not that bad, they’re easily one of the safest write-off used cars you can buy. 

Most of the time, the damage to a Cat N car will be cosmetic, with things like dents, bent or broken spoilers, or deep scratches in the paintwork being the most common. If you find a Cat N car like this, it likely means that it’s going to be pretty safe to drive and reliable, although you should still do some checks. 

Cat N cars are the most suited write-off car to be restored and sold on. However, because of that, they’re also going to be one of the most expensive to buy. These cars, as well as Cat S cars, need to be re-registered by the DVLA to be legal to go on the road. Despite that, there are no legal requirements for the repairs done to a Cat N car to be checked, meaning there is a risk that the work done on it wasn’t great. That’s why it’s a good idea to check write-off cars before buying them.

If you’re tempted to buy a Cat S or Cat N used car, you should get it inspected first. Although these cars can be a lot cheaper to buy, as they’re not considered that valuable, they are also at more risk of breaking down or having faults if they weren’t repaired well. You can get a write-off car checked by the RAC or the AA, who will conduct a multi-point checklist to ensure it’s in good condition. 

Be aware that although write-off cars can be cheaper to buy than other used cars, they may not be the most financially sensible options. This is because these cars are usually a lot more expensive to insure. Write-off cars are seen as more likely to break down or get into accidents, no matter how well they’ve been repaired. To combat this, insurers charge a premium for these cars, making them more expensive for you to own. 

Also, the added risk is that a write-off used car may need more frequent servicing, repairs, and maintenance, which could cost a lot over the years. As a result, even though the car’s cost may be less, it may be more expensive overall when compared to different kinds of used cars.

If you want to learn more about the different categories of written-off cars to help you buy a used car, you can find out more here.

How To Check A New Car

When searching for a new car to buy, you must thoroughly inspect any vehicles you’re interested in to ensure they’re in the condition they’re advertised as. 

No matter if you’re buying a new car or a used car, it’s worth falling into the habit of conducting checks to protect your investment. Here are a few things that you should be doing to ensure that you check a new car well: 

Check car history

Each car you consider buying will have a past, even if it’s nearly new. Before you purchase any vehicle, no matter where you plan to get it from, it’s good to check the vehicle’s history. This is because a car’s history can tell you a lot about what to expect when you buy it.

A car’s past could be hiding many different issues that can influence your decision to buy the car or not. Here are a few things you can do to help give you a better insight into the car’s history.

Use a car reg checker 

One of the first things you should do is use a registration checker to help you better understand a car and its history. When you check the registration of a vehicle, it will pull up a lot of helpful information about the car, such as its current mileage, age, and make and model. Having a clear indication of a car’s age and mileage gives you an insight into how its previous owner treated it. 

For example, a high mileage despite a young age may indicate that it’s been used heavily and could be more susceptible to wear. 

In addition, a reg check can inform you about valuable details, like if a car has been written off in the past, if it’s been in an accident, or if it is registered as stolen. All of these are undesirable traits for any car that you’re buying, so it’s worth finding out this information to help protect you. 

There are multiple reg checkers online, with many of the best ones being free and detailed. In addition to the car’s history, a reg checker will also let you know if it’s been taxed or for an MOT.

If you want to check a car for tax, you can use the Car Adviser tax check

Ask for the history logbook 

Each car should have a logbook that stays with the vehicle and is passed on from owner to owner. In this logbook, the history of any repairs, services, MOTs, and accidents must be noted and collected. This means that looking at the logbook can be a great source to see the car’s official history. 

A logbook can get into a fair bit of depth about a car, which can be helpful for a potential buyer as it can let you know if there are any regular faults or issues that the car has been serviced for in the past. 

If a car has failed an MOT in the past, you’ll also see it in the logbook. This makes it a great tool for understanding the condition of the vehicle better, and it also gives you enough knowledge to figure out if you want to buy it or not.

Check car quality

Regardless of where you’re buying a car, you want to ensure that it’s in good condition and that you’re getting a quality standard vehicle. After all, you’re parting with a sizeable amount of money to fund the purchase, so you need to ensure that it’s good value. Thankfully, you can do many different things when viewing a car to see if it’s quality. 

Look for its MOT history

For a car to be deemed road legal, it needs to pass an MOT inspection every year. An MOT is an in-depth look at the car and is done by a mechanic, following a robust checklist that will check everything about a car. 

When buying a car, you want to see its MOT history to see if it’s passed its previous MOTs or missed any. Ideally, if you’re buying a car, it should have a 100% success rate of MOT passes. However, a fail here, and there isn’t the end of the world. 

Cars can fail MOTs for minor reasons, so seeing fails in a car’s past shouldn’t put you off. However, consistent fails for the same issue is a red flag, as it means that you’ll likely have a problem with this issue, too, if you buy the car. 

What’s great about an MOT history is that each test will detail any issues or points of concern, giving you a better understanding of any components that may not be in the best condition when buying it.

You can check a car’s MOT status here on Car Adviser. 

Get an independent inspection 

When viewing a car, it’s a good idea to try to get the vehicle inspected by an expert mechanic or engineer. This is because being able to get someone in to properly look at the car and see if there are any issues at present can be a great way to stop you from getting a vehicle that has problems. 

You can get independent inspections done by either the AA and RAC and both will follow a pretty detailed checklist to help them find even the smallest of issues. 

Knowing about parts and faults you may have to fix down the line can help you better work out how much the car will cost you in its lifetime, which can be good leverage to help negotiate the price down. 

The only issue with getting an inspection is that it can be pretty hard to organise, especially if you’re buying from a dealership or a private seller. The seller may not be that welcoming about the idea of an inspection, so it could cause aggravation and slow the buying process. If the seller offers a money-back guarantee period, you can always buy the car, get it checked immediately, and then return it if you find issues, although this can be risky. 

Give the car a test-drive

When viewing a car, especially if you’re getting one from a dealership or manufacturer, you should be able to have the option to test drive the car that you’re interested in. This is a great opportunity to get a feel for the car and figure out how you feel about it. 

When going for a test drive, be sure to think about how it feels to drive and how responsive it is. You should always be observant of any signs of issues, such as a rattling or if certain functions don’t feel too responsive. Test out all the electronics, too, to ensure that they’re also working. 

Once you’ve identified that everything is working as it should, you should also take the time to assess the quality of the car’s performance. See if the steering is floaty and if the suspension is comfortable. If there’s nothing wrong with the vehicle, still remember that you’re under no obligation to buy it if you feel that it’s just not feeling right for you.

Check legality

Sometimes, when buying a used car, the seller or the process may not be legitimate. This can often happen if you buy a car from an independent public member. It can be a massive headache if you buy a car that’s not allowed to be sold. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that the sale of the vehicle is legal. 

Ask for all needed documentation 

When selling a car, there needs to be some documentation to be handed over for the sale to be legal. One of the main things that you need to hand over is proof of purchase. 

There needs to be a copy for both the buyer and seller, which is used to legally identify who is now the car’s owner. Proof of purchase needs to have the address and details of both people involved in the sale of a car, as well as the registration number of the car, its make, its model, and the year it was made. 

You’ll also need section 6 of a V5C form as a buyer. This section indicates to the DVLA that the car has been sold so that they can update their database.

As well as this, a new buyer also needs to receive the logbook, the service history of the car, an MOT certificate, the warranty on the car, if there is any remaining, and any receipts for repairs and servicing.

Check that the car is registered by the DVLA 

For a car to be considered road legal, it needs to be registered by the DVLA. If it isn’t at the point where you buy the vehicle, it means that the sale is illegal and shouldn’t be done. 

There are many reasons why a car may not be registered with the DVLA. The first is that it was written off and thought to be scrapped or broken for parts. If this is the case, it can mean that the car you’re buying isn’t in good condition and should be avoided.

Make sure the seller actually owns the car 

It’s illegal for someone to sell you a car they don’t own, as it’s not their possession to sell and profit from. When checking for this, it doesn’t just mean that you should check to see if the vehicle is stolen; you should also see if the seller has fully paid the car off. 

One way people can own a car is through finance. This is where they borrow money from the seller to buy the car and then pay that back in monthly instalments, plus interest. If someone is selling a car while still paying off their financial plan, they’re legally not allowed to do so, as they currently do not fully own the car. You want to avoid this situation when buying a car, as it could end up being a sticky situation.

Ensure that it’s not a Cat A or Cat B write-off

You are legally allowed to buy a Cat S or Cat N car. However, you are not allowed to buy a Cat B car to drive it, nor are you allowed to purchase a Cat A car at all. 

In fact, Cat A cars need to be destroyed, meaning that if the vehicle you’re buying has a Cat A classification, it means that it illegally avoided being scrapped and may not be safe for you to own. You can easily check to see if a car has been written off and what category it has by checking its logbook or by searching its registration with a checking tool. 

Different Ways To Buy a Car

When buying a car, there are multiple different ways that you can finance the purchase. It may surprise many, but most people who buy a car typically do not purchase it outright in one transaction.

Cars can be expensive, meaning that for most people, buying a car in full is not something they can budget for. Thankfully, there are multiple different ways that you can pay for a car. 

Each option will have its positives and negatives and will suit different situations. When buying a car for yourself, it’s a good idea to know the finance options available to you to figure out which one works best for you. Here’s a look at some of the main ways you can buy a car.

Buying a car outright

Buying a car outright is where you pay for the car, covering the car’s costs with money that you either have as cash or that’s in your bank account. When you pay for a car like this, it means that you will own the car from the start, meaning that you can do anything you want to it, providing that it’s legal. 

In an ideal world, most people would rather buy a car outright, as it’s secure and means you can modify it and sell it quickly. The issue is that buying a vehicle outright can be pretty hard, especially if you don’t have money in the bank. Cars can be a rather significant expense, so it’s unrealistic to think that most people can part with thousands of pounds at once. Thankfully, there are other options for people who want to pay for a car differently.


If you have a current car that you’re planning on selling to help you finance a new car, there is an option available where you can part exchange it. When you do that, the value of your current vehicle will be put towards the cost of your new one, helping you reduce the cost of the vehicle you’re buying. 

Essentially, instead of buying your car and giving you cash for it, the dealer is instead using its value to knock the price off what they’re selling. 

It’s worth noting that a part exchange will likely pay you less than if you were to sell your car privately. That said, putting your car up on the market and waiting for buyers can be longwinded and might not suit those who want to sell their vehicle quickly. Part exchanges are a lot quicker to sort and thus are a more convenient way to access cash from your old car, which is why many people choose to buy a car this way.

Car finance

Buying a car on finance means that instead of paying for the car all at once, you’re paying off the car monthly. Buying a car through finance is a standard way to purchase a vehicle, as it can make it more affordable as you pay less each month. 

That said, when you finance a car, you’ll end up paying more than what the car was worth. This is because interest is applied to the car’s value. When you finance a vehicle, you’re essentially borrowing money from the seller to pay it back. To protect them financially, you have to pay more to ensure it’s worth their time. 

Another potential issue with financing a car is that you’re not the owner of the car until you fully pay off the debt. Depending on how much you agree to pay for the car each month, you could end up having a contract for multiple years. This means that during this period, you cannot sell the vehicle or make any modifications. 

Despite this, financing does have its benefits. Firstly, you don’t have to pay a deposit for the car, which can help save some initial money. You also don’t need a fantastic credit score to be accepted for finance, and it may also help boost your overall credit rating to allow you access to better credit products in the future.

Car Leasing

Car leasing can be a bit similar to regular car finance, and because of that, many people confuse the two. When you lease a car, you pay a deposit and then make monthly payments for the length of your contract. 

Where it differs is that once your lease expires and you reach the end of your contract, you don’t own the car. Instead, you have to give the vehicle back to who you leased it from. This means that leasing is essentially renting the vehicle for an extended period. 

When you lease a car, it’s typically a lot cheaper than other forms of finance, making it a desirable option for most. With that said, there are a few restrictions that you may have to follow in terms of your lease.

For example, some providers may set you a mileage limit, where you’ll be charged extra if you go over it. Plus, maintenance isn’t usually included when you lease a car, meaning that you’ll have to sort that separately and factor that into the overall price.

Car Subscription

Car subscription by Volvo.

A car subscription is a relatively new way of getting your hands on a car and is growing in popularity in the UK. Instead of buying a car all at once or paying towards owning it in monthly instalments that build interest, you can drive a car by just paying a monthly fee. 

A car subscription is very similar to other subscription services you find on the web, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. With it, you get a continuous service with no restrictions, all by paying a reasonably low price each month. 

What’s great about car subscriptions is that, unlike leasing or financing a single car, you’re not tied to a single vehicle. Instead, most car subscription service providers allow you to swap and replace cars at least every year, while some let you get your hands on a new vehicle every six months. 

Car subscriptions are an excellent way for people to access and drive the latest vehicles on the market without having to buy them outright. They also come with a lot of extra perks, such as roadside assistance and maintenance for your vehicle. Some also give you access to a personal assistant who you can contact if there are any issues with your car. 

Subscription car services are a great way to get a car in your possession, but it must be stated that you do not own a car when you are subscribed to it. This means you can never sell it, and you’re instead just a named driver of the vehicle. If you rather have the security of having your car, then this may not be the right option for you. However, if you like getting access to top-quality models, you can review the best car subscription providers here on Car Adviser.

Where To Buy a Car

There are multiple great places where you can go to buy a car, both online and in person. In fact, there’s so much choice that it can be challenging to know where to start. Where you buy a car from can impact the quality of the car you get and also influences the extra services and aftercare you’re entitled to. 

Here’s a look at all the different places where you can buy a car to help you decide which avenue best suits you.

Buying a car in person

Car Manufacturers

If you’re looking to buy a brand-new car, one of the best places to go is direct to the manufacturer of the vehicle you’re interested in. This is because a manufacturer will usually only be selling brand new cars, meaning that they’ll be in excellent condition and won’t have been through any wear and tear. 

Of course, when deciding to buy from a manufacturer, you’ll need to know which brand of car that you’re interested in, so this option isn’t the best if you’re still figuring out which car is right for you. In addition, buying cars directly from the manufacturer will likely be the most expensive way to get a car. 

That said, many manufacturers will offer enticing and pretty generous finance options, meaning that you could still get a relatively good deal when buying a new car from a manufacturer. There are also plenty of additional benefits to buying a car directly from a manufacturer. 

The main one is that you can customise your car as much as you want, adding new features and extras to make it tailored to you. In addition to that, when you buy from a manufacturer, you’ll also likely be given a good warranty, which can help protect your car if it runs into faults and issues. 


Dealerships are places that sell either new or old cars and can either be official sellers of certain manufacturers or sell their own collection of vehicles from different brands. Buying from a dealership is beneficial for many as you’ll be able to browse various types of cars from different brands. This increases the choice available to you and also makes it easier to compare your options. 

Most dealers will be selling used cars, meaning that the prices for a dealership will be a bit less than when buying from a manufacturer. Dealerships are also much more inclined to haggle and negotiate their prices, meaning there’s a greater opportunity to knock down the asking price of a car. 

In addition, if you’re looking for a used car, dealerships are typically much safer than buying a car from an individual or buying online. This is because they have to be registered and must follow specific procedures. It’s easy to find the car’s history and access its logbook and MOT records when buying from a legitimate dealership. You can also be more confident that the cars are in good condition.

Car Auctions

If you’re looking to buy a car for cheap, or want to find a vehicle that may be rare or vintage, then buying a car from an auction could be an excellent option. When a car is sold at auction, interested buyers will bid on it until a final buyer is found. As a result of this, there is potential that you can get a car for a cut price. However, if you get into a bidding war with another buyer, you may end up paying over the odds. 

All cars sold at auction must be legal, meaning that you won’t come across any Cat A write-offs or car that isn’t registered. That said, the vehicles don’t have to be of the best quality, and you are at greater risk of buying a vehicle that may have faults or issues with it, so you need to be careful when purchasing a car by auction. 

You’ll also find many Cat B car lots being sold at auction. This is so people interested in breaking the car for parts can source them for cheap.

Buying a car online


Direct seller 

There are many websites where you can buy cars directly from the company. This means that the business owns all the cars you’re buying the car from, making it much quicker to buy a car. 

The benefit of buying a car from a direct seller online is that it will likely be in great condition. Most of these sellers will refurbish all their cars, meaning that you can trust them to be in good condition and perform well. In addition to that, buying directly from a website can make the process quicker, as you don’t have to negotiate and organise viewings and drop-offs. Instead, you can buy the car at its quoted price and then arrange drop-off or pick-up seamlessly. 

One of the most popular direct sellers is Cazoo. Here you can not only buy but also lease and subscribe to different cars, meaning that there are multiple finance options to suit you. Cazoo has a great reputation and is perhaps one of the best places to buy a car directly. This is because they provide a lot of information about the condition and history of their cars and also have an interactive 360 view where you can look at all aspects of the car’s interior and exterior. 

Cazoo is also very convenient, as you can also have your new car delivered to you any day of the week, removing a lot of the hassle of buying a car. Direct sellers like Cazoo also offer vehicle warranties, which is a nice bonus. 

Another great alternative to Cazoo if you’re looking for a direct online seller is Motorpoint. These providers own every car they sell, but they also stand out in the market because they focus on selling nearly-new cars. This means that cars from Motorpoint are usually less than a year old with minimal mileage. Being nearly new makes the car more likely to be in excellent condition, making Motorpoint a trustworthy place to buy a car from. 

You can also buy used cars from Motorpoint, but still, the oldest a car will be is four years old, and they will all have under 30,000 miles on the clock. 

Other direct sellers include Cinch and CarShop, and websites like these are usually the most seamless and trustworthy places to buy a car online.

Car search engines 

Car search engines are a great place to start your car search. This is because these websites usually have such an extensive database of cars and can help you find vehicles from various locations.

These websites work very similarly to Google in that you first enter a search term in a search bar to narrow down your choice. When searching, you’ll need to input all the keywords you’re looking for to help the algorithm pull cars similar to what you’re looking for. 

Because these sites lack more robust filter options, they’re not a good place to look for cars if you haven’t a firm idea of what you’re looking for. Plus, when you use these websites, you’ll likely not be able to buy the cars directly from the site. This is because their results are pulled from various car listings across the web, meaning that you may have to go to a different website or contact the dealer selling the car directly. 

Also, because the cars aren’t listed directly on the website and are instead being pulled from across the web, some results may lack information about the vehicle, with only basic things like age, mileage, and fuel type being listed. This means to find more information about a car, you’ll have to click off the site to go to the actual listing of the car. 

There are two pretty good car search engines that you should consider using when starting your search for a used car.

The first is Carsnip which claims to be the biggest car search engine in the UK. The website is very simple to use and is free for those that want to browse. With over 300,000 potential results, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a suitable car. 

Another option is CarGurus, which is a bit more advanced than Carsnip because it also includes a lot of iconography and data that can help you easily see whether a car is good. For example, each listing on CarGurus will have a colour-coded arrow to show if the asking price is above or below value. They also rate each dealer out of five stars based on their reviews, allowing you to search for cars confidently.

Car ad websites

Car ad websites are a bit different from search engines because instead of pulling results from around the web, the cars found on these websites have been listed directly on them. This means that the seller had to create an account on the website and, in some cases, also had to be vetted to ensure they’re good quality and trustworthy. 

Car ad websites have good functionality, as many of them allow you to search for a car based on features that you want, which is great for people who aren’t yet sure about the make and model that they wish to buy but instead know what features they need. 

The information you can get from a Car Ad website is also far more in-depth, and you’ll usually get a good description of the car too. These websites still require you to contact and buy from the dealer directly, however you’ll only be able to buy from high-quality sellers. 

One of the most used and trusted car ad websites is AutoTrader. This has been a long-running brand on which people have bought and sold cars for years. Every car listed on AutoTrader has been through thorough background checks and needs to pass their 5-step checklist to be listed on the website. This means that the majority of cars on AutoTrader are legal and should be in great condition. 

AutoTrader also has a feature that makes it easy to compare one car with its market value, making it a great place to buy a used car for a good price. 

Another good car ad website is GumTree. Although not focused on just selling cars, it has become a popular place for people to sell because of its low fees. If you’re looking to buy a car for cheap, Gumtree can be a good place. The site also checks all cars listed on Gumtree, and vehicles that pass are given an easy-to-see badge so that you know which sellers to trust more. 

There are a whole host of car ad websites, including eBay Motors and Heycar. If you want to get a reasonable price and also have the opportunity to haggle, then they could be the best place online to buy a car. If you want to review all of Car Adviser’s top-rated places to buy a used car online, you can find our guide here.

New Car Add-Ons

When you buy a car, there’s more to it than just purchasing it and driving off. Although it would be nice if things were that easy, the truth is that there are additional services and documentation that you need to buy.

Some are a legal requirement, while others are highly recommended as they can keep your car safe and ensure that it performs for you for a long time. 

All of these additional services and documentation cost money, so they should be considered in your budget when searching for a new car.

Legal requirements

You’ll have to sort out a few things very soon after buying a car to ensure it’s roadworthy. In fact, without these documents and services being sorted, you won’t be able to drive your new car home. The things that you’ll need to make sure are in order are: 

Road tax 

For a car to be allowed on the road, it needs to be taxed. Although a vehicle needs to be taxed for it to be legally sold, this tax payment doesn’t get transferred to you once you buy a car. Instead, once a car is sold, the original owner is refunded a portion of their annual tax fees. 

This means that one of the first things you need to do when you get a new car is to tax it under your name. This shouldn’t take too long and can be done at the DVLA’s website, which is a branch of the Uk government. The government then uses the money raised from car tax to fund highway maintenance and clear potholes, and build better roads.

The amount that you need to pay in tax will alter depending on some different factors about the car. The main factors that influence cost are the age of the car and the Co2 emission of the vehicle. If the car you buy emits little Co2, then you won’t have to pay that much, but if it emits over 255g/Km, you may have to pay around £2,365 a year. It would be best if you considered the cost of road tax when buying a new vehicle, as it will influence the total amount you have to pay for your car. 

Car Insurance


When you get a car, it’s a legal requirement that it is insured before you drive it on a public road. Insurance is in place because it helps protect you financially if you’re involved in an accident. Usually, an insurance provider will cover the costs of the damages sustained to your car. If you’re at fault for the accident, it will also cover damages to the other vehicles involved in the accident. 

When getting your car insured, there are many different types of insurance that you can get. The legal requirement that you need is third-party cover. This is where it covers damages and injuries done to third parties. It means that you’ll be covered if you injure other people, either inside or outside of your car, or damage property. 

Although you only need third-party insurance, it’s best to get more than this basic option. This is because if you only have this insurance, you won’t get cover for repairs of your own car or cover if you’ve been injured. Plus, if your car is lost, stolen, or destroyed by a fire, you won’t get cover and will have to finance your car. 

When getting insurance, it’s worth getting comprehensive insurance, which covers damage that’s been done to your car and covers you if your car is stolen or damaged in a fire. 

An up-to-date MOT

An MOT is an annual test your car is put through to see if it’s in good working order and is considered roadworthy. When a car goes through an MOT, it gets a certificate valid for the next 12 months. 

When buying a car, it’s a good idea to check that it recently had an MOT, as this means that it will be legal and also be in good condition. 

Despite how MOTs are still valid when a car is sold, it’s still good practice to get one after you buy a car. This is because it will give you peace of mind that the vehicle is in good condition. 

MOTs aren’t too expensive and cost, on average, £50 for a four-wheel car. In an MOT, a mechanic will go through a thorough checklist, identifying and potentially fixing any issues that they come across. A test can take all day, so be prepared not to have your car for a 24-hour period. 

Add-ons to protect your car

It’s possible to buy a car without paying for the following additional features and services. However, without them, you put yourself at massive risk of losing out financially if anything is to go wrong with your car. 

Without any of the following, if your car is damaged, stolen, has a fault, or breaks down, you’ll have to cover the costs to sort the situation yourself. Some of these issues can be extremely expensive, so having these services allows you to avoid high fees and makes it easier to get your car the help it needs.

Car Warranty 

A warranty is a handy additional car service that allows you to cover the costs of labour and parts if your car needs to be repaired. A warranty will cover not everything, and most will only cover the cost of issues that are deemed as faults in the mechanics and electrical components. 

There are plenty of different warranties that you can get. When you buy a new car, you’ll likely be given a warranty by the manufacturer for a fee that will cover repairs and issues. As well as that, you can also buy warranties when buying a used car from the dealership selling you the car. These warranties usually last no longer than 12 months and can only be claimed if you get your car repaired with the dealer directly. 

However, the most common and perhaps best type of warranty are aftermarket warranties. These are warranties that you can buy independently after you buy a car and are typically the most comprehensive.

A warranty can have different levels, meaning that some things won’t be covered if you get a cheaper and basic option. As a bare minimum, you can expect to have issues with your engine covered by a warranty, which is excellent as this is usually the most expensive thing to repair. 

If you get a more comprehensive warranty plan, you can also get cover for faults with your transmission, fuel systems, electrics, steering, gearbox, clutch, and lots more. That said, warranties will typically not cover issues to the batteries, bulbs, wheels and tyres, and you’ll have to pay for these yourself. Thankfully, they’re usually not too expensive issues to fix. 

As well as that, most warranty providers will have a clause that they won’t cover the cost of issues that were caused by wear and tear. That said, some of the best warranty providers do include wear and tear cover; however, this may come at a premium cost.

If you’re interested in getting a warranty for your newly bought vehicle, then you can find our list of the best warranty providers for used cars here

GAP insurance 

Suppose you’re buying a new or nearly new car that hasn’t yet experienced the expected depreciation of value. In that case, getting GAP insurance may be a good idea to protect your investment and ensure that you’re not losing out on any money. 

When you successfully claim on your insurance after it gets into an accident and is written off, you’ll typically get a replacement car provided by your insurance provider that is of the same value as your vehicle’s when it broke down. The issue with that is the value of your car would have significantly decreased from the day you bought it, especially if it was written off years after your initial purchase. 

For example, say you bought a car for £20,000 and then have it written off after three years of ownership. Now, you’ll only be able to get a new car that’s valued at £8,000 because your car depreciated by 60%. 

When you get GAP insurance, the provider can also pay you the difference between your car’s current value and the amount that it was worth when you bought this. This means that you’ll be able to get a replacement car that is of similar specifications to the one you purchased. 

GAP insurance isn’t a stand-alone policy and is something that you should get alongside the required third-party insurance. This insurance is most beneficial if you bought a new car and want to get a new one as a replacement after it’s been written off. If you want to learn more, Car Adviser has an Ultimate Guide on GAP insurance that you should check out. 

Car Breakdown cover

Breakdown cover is one of the best additional services you can get for your car, as it can help you in a sticky situation. It’s also very valuable if you’re buying a used car because these vehicles are statistically at greater risk of breaking down. It helps safeguard you financially from these situations. 

When you get breakdown cover, it means that, at the very least, if your car breaks down on the road and cannot be driven, you’ll be able to get a mechanic to assist you at the roadside for free. In addition, you’ll also be able to have your car towed to the nearest garage if it can’t be fixed at the roadside, with this cost being covered by your breakdown cover provider. 

Depending on your coverage level, you can also get the option to have nationwide recovery, which means that you can get your car towed to any location in the UK. You can also add the option to get breakdown cover for when you’re abroad in Europe, and also something called onward journey, where you’ll be given a replacement car, a place to stay, or transport back to your home if you break down away from your hometown. 

Breakdown cover can be a relatively costly annual fee depending on who you go with, with some popular providers being the AA, RAC and Green Flag. That said, the cost of the breakdown cover is much cheaper than paying for a call-out and tow to a garage yourself. 

It’s important to note that breakdown cover only covers the cost of assistance and transport in most cases. If your car needs serious repairs, you may need to pay for the parts and labour yourself. Thankfully, that’s where your warranty should come in. 

If you want to know who the best breakdown cover providers are in the UK, here’s a review of all the ones you should consider. 

Dash cams

Dash cams are small devices you can secure to your dashboard to record and film the road ahead as you drive. These devices are getting very popular in the UK as they’re a good way for drivers to safeguard themselves if they ever get into a crash or accident or witness one. 

This is because the footage from a dash cam can be used as evidence when making an insurance claim. If there’s a dispute about who is at fault for an accident, the footage from a dashcam can be used to separate fact from fiction. 

Instead of an insurance provider and even the police having to get evidence through witness statements, clear footage from a dashcam that shows who’s at fault can make an insurance claim much quicker to process. This means that you’ll be able to get the compensation you need quickly. 

Dash cams aren’t too expensive to buy and are an excellent extra piece of security for when you’re on the road. When using them, ensure you don’t position them in your eye line, as doing so can be an offence. 

How to Maintain Your New Car

Once you buy a new car, you’ll want to do what you can to look after it and ensure it’s in good condition. Car maintenance takes a lot of work. To help, here are a few tips to ensure that you’re doing what you can to avoid issues. 

5 Quick car maintenance tips

1. Car battery

Your battery is one of the most essential parts of your car. Although your engine gives your car propulsion, you won’t be able to turn your vehicle on if your battery is damaged or flat. To help keep your battery charged, running your engine for around 15 minutes once a week can be helpful. When doing this, make sure that you do it in an open, outdoor space. You shouldn’t do this in your garage as it can cause a build-up of toxic fumes. 

To also stop your battery from going flat, you should make sure that you turn all internal lights off when leaving the car, and also try not to forget about your headlights too. You should also avoid using the electronics in your vehicle without having the engine running, as prolonged use can cause the battery to drain as well. 

2. Car brakes

Your car’s brakes are one of the most critical safety features in your car. To ensure they’re in good condition, it’s a good habit to drive your car back and forth a short distance before setting off on your journey to ensure that your brakes don’t seize up. This can make them more responsive, helping to keep them effective at slowing down your vehicle quickly. This is something that you should do pretty often in the winter, especially.

3. Car service

You should get your car regularly serviced to keep it well maintained. A service will help ensure that your vehicle is fine-tuned and will make it easier to spot potential issues before they become a major problem. A service should be done on your car at least every year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. It’s good to check your driver’s handbook, as this will have more detailed guidance on when you should get your car serviced, depending on the model. 

Many people feel that a service is too much of an additional expense and instead don’t do it regularly enough. This is risky as the cost of a service is usually much cheaper than having to pay for a costly repair that could have been avoided if the issues had been identified early. 

4. Infestations

No matter where you live and what time of year, you should keep an eye out for infestations within your car. Your vehicle can be prime real estate for animals ranging from bees, spiders, squirrels, birds, and even domestic cats. Many areas of your car can be a good place for animals to hide, so it’s worth looking. 

The main area that you should look at is under the bonnet. Here you should check for droppings, gnawed wiring, evidence of nests, or food. Animals are most often found in filter boxes, under fuse boxes, or in battery trays. You should also check around the wheels for any signs of life. Rodents such as badgers, mice, and even cats can climb around your suspension, so it’s best to check as they can cause expensive damage to your car. If you do find anything, you can get pest control to help remove the animal. 

5. Car filters

 Every once in a while, you should check the filters in your car. This can include things like your air conditioning filter or your diesel particulate filter if you’re driving a diesel that’s older than 2007. Filters are designed to collect debris, which can get clogged up if they’re not cleaned over time.

Usually, the PDF will burn off any particles during a long drive on a fast road, such as a motorway or carriageway. If you don’t do too many long drives, the filter can start clogging up, causing problems. If this is the case, the best way to fix it is to go on a reasonably long, fast drive on the motorway. 

To clean your aircon filter, this can easily be removed and cleaned with a brush and warm water.

As the owner of a new car, there are also a few other things that you can do regularly to ensure that your vehicle is in good condition. Known as checks, these are essential aspects of car maintenance that you need to do periodically to ensure that your car is in excellent operational standard. 

These checks can be done by yourself and should be something that you add to your routine, especially if you’re proud of your car and want to ensure it performs well. Here are three essential checks you can do at home and the steps to take to do them correctly. 

Fluid level checks

To ensure that your car is operating at a good standard, check the fluid levels of key aspects of your vehicle. If a car has too much or too little fluid, it may struggle to perform, and it can also increase the chances of issues and problems down the line. 

One of the most essential fluid levels you need to check is the oil level. If the oil level is too low, it can cause severe damage to an engine if left unresolved and puts your car at greater risk of breaking down. 

To check your car’s oil level, you’ll need to use your dipstick to see if its level is between the minimum and maximum markers. You’ll have to top it up with oil if it’s too low. Make sure that you’re using the right kind of oil for your car. 

When using your dipstick, you need to ensure that you’re using the right one for your specific car. If you lose your dipstick, you can’t replace it with a generic one from another model, as the recommended minimum and maximum levels may not be the same and line up correctly with your car’s requirements.

Checking your brake fluid should also be similar, as you’ll need to see if the fluid within your master cylinder is between the minimum and maximum markers. If you’re struggling to find the master cylinder, it’s usually located at the back of the engine bay on the driver’s side. 

Checking the coolant fluid level is also similar. First, find the engine coolant reservoir located under the bonnet and see if the fluid falls within the range marked on the side. If your engine is currently cold when checking it, it should be up to the cold fill line, at least.

Car Tyre checks

One of the most important things you can check before a long journey is your tyres. If your tyres are defective and aren’t quite right, your car may be more unsafe to drive. 

When checking your tyres, the first thing you want to do is make sure that there are no punctures. You can check by running your hand across the tyres and looking around them to see any obvious points of impact. After that, you should then check the thread length of your tyres. 

A tyre’s thread is the groves that can be found all around the car. As a vehicle is driven, friction wears away these threads, making them smaller and more shallow. For a car to be road legal, it needs a minimum thread length of 1.6mm. To check, you can use a 20p coin. When you put the 20p in your thread, you shouldn’t be able to see the outer ridge of the coin. Despite the legal minimum being 1.6mm, it’s recommended that the thread is around 3mm. 

In addition to checking the thread, you should also check that your tyres have the right pressure in them. Each car will have a different recommended inflation, so you should check your handbook to find how much pressure your tyres need. 

The pressure of your car must be good because too high pressure can make the tyre more likely to burst, and too low pressure can make the car much harder to control and steer. 

You can use a pressure gauge to check the pressure of your tyres. This is a small gadget that you press into the value of your tyre. When you do this, the tension in the tyre will push a measure. The further the bar is pushed out, the higher the pressure in the tyre. If you need to add more pressure to your tyres, you can do this with a car pump.

Electrical checks

Your car has a lot of electrics in it, ranging from your headlight to internal lights and more. Plus, if you have a modern car, other features such as built-in satnav or reverse cameras also rely on the electrics. Because of the high volume of electrical items, issues with your electrics are one of the most common faults. 

To help maintain your car well and ensure that everything works well, it’s worth having a person walk around your car as you turn on various lights to ensure that they’re working. You should check your indicators, brake lights, headlights, driving lights, and more. Even your number plate lights should be checked, as you can be fined for having a registration that can’t clearly be seen. 

In fact, if any of your lights aren’t working, you could be charged and potentially have points taken from your license. You should check your lights every six months or so. 

In addition to your lights, you should check to see if your battery is in good condition. You can do this by checking to see if the battery terminals are clean and tight and if your engine starts correctly. If you need to clean your battery, you can do this with hot water and petroleum jelly. 

It’s worth replacing a battery every four years, as a battery this old may be getting to the end of its life and could let you down. If your engine is struggling to start, you should get your battery serviced and checked out at a garage.

Fuel additives

If you’re considering taking even extra care of your car to ensure it lasts a long time, one of the best maintenance things you can do is include fuel additives into your routine. 

Fuel additives are a compound that is used to boost the performance and efficiency of the fuel used to power a car. There are multiple different types of fuel additives, and each one will focus on improving your vehicle in different ways. They can either be used to improve the octane rating of your fuel – which makes the fuel safer or used as a lubricant to reduce the friction within your fuel system to make the car more efficient. The best fuel additives will combine these properties, but they can be expensive.

Fuel additives effectively keep your fuel system clean, helping to keep it in good condition for much longer. They also have the added benefit of increasing your mile per gallon, which could help you save money thanks to less frequent stops at the petrol station.

If you’re going to start using fuel additives in your routine, it’s best to add them into an empty tank before filling up the rest with your required fuel type. It’s best only to add fuel additives every 3000-5000 miles of driving, which the average person does every three months or so, so you’re not going to be using fuel additives every time you fill up your car.

It would help if you never used too much fuel additive or add it too regularly, as this can clog your filters and impact the performance of your new car. 

Some of the most popular types of fuel additives include:

Gas treatments 

Gas treatments are usually the cheapest to buy and are designed to eliminate any carbon deposits that can be left behind and build up in your fuel system. They’re formulated with polyisobutene, a type of synthetic rubber, and using this will improve the quality of your fuel and help you create much cleaner emissions, making your vehicle more environmentally friendly as a result. 

Fuel injector cleaners

A fuel injector cleaner can be considered a better version of gas treatments as they contain polyetheramine, which is thought to be much better at cleaning the parts within your fuel system. 

With this more expensive fuel additive, you’ll be able to clean more parts within your car, such as the direct fuel injectors. Having this deeper cleaning fuel additive can make your new car function a lot better, making it both more popular and economical. 

Fuel stabiliser

A fuel stabiliser is designed to ensure that your fuel stays in as good condition as possible. Over time, the fuel in your car will diminish and reduce, especially if it’s left in storage for a long time. This breakdown in quality can make your vehicle worse at accelerating and also impact the car’s power. 

Adding a fuel stabiliser stops the fuel from diminishing in quality by absorbing any water in the fuel to stop it from being diluted. It also prevents the chemical reaction that causes the fuel to break down from happening, meaning this is a great fuel additive for those that need their fuel to last a long time.

Octane boosters

Octane boosters are a type of fuel additive that focus more on increasing your fuel’s octane level than cleaning your fuel system. The reason it’s good to increase the octane level of your fuel is that it results in cleaner combustion, which improves efficiency and performance. 

An octane booster will also clear away carbon deposits from your fuel system, but it’s not the best option for those wanting a deeper clean. 

If you want to start using fuel additives, there’s still a lot more information about them that can be useful to know. You can find out more about fuel additives here on Car Adviser.

Buying A Car FAQs

When buying a used car, there are multiple things that you need to be wary of. Some people on the second-hand market are not above board and may engage in malicious activity to mislead buyers, which can result in them buying a car that isn't suitable, and that may also be illegal. When looking to buy a second-hand car, especially from an individual, keep an eye out for: 

Clocking - This is where the current owners of a used car selling it on the second-hand market wind back the odometer of a car. An odometer is the device used to track a car's mileage, so rewinding it can significantly reduce the mileage displayed. This is done to make a high-mileage car look substantially more attractive and thus more valuable. This practice of clocking is illegal, and if you're buying from a member of the public, you should keep an eye out for this practice. To spot clocking, look to see if a car's wear and tear matches the supposed mileage. The car could have been clocked if it looks like it's been used more than what the odometer implies. Tell-tale signs of wear and tear are shiny steering wheels, worn pedals, and wear on the carpets or mats. 

Cloning - Cloning is where one car is given the identity of another similar car. This is usually done by replacing the number plate with that of an almost identical vehicle. For cloning to be convincing, the two cars need to be the same make, model and colour so that when the reg is checked, it looks like the car that's being sold. People clone cars to make it look like the vehicle being sold is in better condition than it actually is, meaning they can charge more. For example, if a car has a Cat S classification, a seller might clone it with a model that isn't a write-off. This practice is illegal, and to avoid you need to check the car you're looking to buy thoroughly. 

Cut-and-shuts - A cut-and-shut is where the remains and parts of two or more cars have been welded together and given the identity of one of the wrecks. This is usually done when cars have been written off and damaged heavily in an accident. The issue with cut-and-shut cars is that they're pretty hard to spot with the naked eye, as the cosmetic work done to them are usually very good. However, the inner components and performance of the car could be compromised due to the construction, making them unsafe to drive and illegal. To stay clear of this kind of vehicle, it's worth getting a car data check to see the car's true history fully. 

Thankfully, these dangers aren't all too common, and if you follow the correct car buying process, ask the right questions, and check the car's history, you'll be able to spot all the issues. 

When buying a used or nearly-new car, it's a good idea to inspect the vehicle and check it thoroughly to see if there are any issues with it. 

Regarding what to check, the RAC have a very robust checklist of areas of the car that you should follow and look into. By looking at all these components of the car, you'll have more peace of mind that the car you're buying is quality. 


You want to ensure that the car's tyres have a minimal legal thread on them of 1.6mm. Even if they're at around 3mm, you'll likely have to change the tyres during your ownership, so you'll have to factor in that cost when getting a used car. Tyres won't be too much to replace on cheap, budget cars; however, if you're getting a more premium motor, you may have to splash the cash to get matching premium tyres. 

Dents and scratches

You'll want to check out the bodywork for dents and scratches. Although these don't affect the car's performance, they are unsightly and ruin the look of a vehicle. When looking for dents and scratches, you should do so in clear daylight so that you don't miss anything. These things can be fixed cheaply, but you could use them to knock down the asking price for a car. Significant dents and scratches could be signs of a previous accident, so you should ask if you see any.

Panel gaps

Significant gaps between the panels of a car can indicate that a vehicle has been badly damaged in a crash and hasn't been repaired to a good standard. If you spot any panel gaps, it may indicate that the car isn't safe. You should also check to see if there are any colour differences between the panels, as this can indicate a bad repair. 

Fluid levels

You'd want to check the fluid levels of things like the brakes, coolant, oil, and screenwash. Although all of these things can be topped up for a minimal expense, if you find a used car for sale with low fluid levels, it can be a sign that it's not been well maintained and looked after. When checking the fluid levels, you should keep an eye out for any leaks too.

Oil cap

When checking the oil level, it's also good to study under and around the oil cap for a white, thick substance. If there is any residue, it may be a sign that the head gasket has failed, which can cause condensation, which isn't great for the car. You'll also want to ensure that all the other fluid tanks look clean and debris-free. 


You'll want to try every electrical component to ensure they're all working well. It's best to start with the lights to ensure that the car is road legal, as issues with the indicator or headlights can mean you're not allowed to drive the car. You should also check that the windows, radio, aircon, and internal lights work. Any faults can be repaired quickly, but issues can be a good point of negotiation. 


It's best to inspect every glass panel of the car, looking out for chips or signs of damage. Even the most minor chip can turn into a crack, which can compromise the whole windscreen. Plus, any cracks in the driver's eye line can also cause an MOT failure, which means you should avoid the car. You should also check the glass in the headlights, as any cracks can cause them to fog up or create internal moisture, which can compromise their effectiveness. 


Although not essential to the car's performance, you'll want to ensure that the interior is in good condition. A poor quality interior can be off-putting and make the car less comfortable, so it should be something you consider when checking a used car. Check for things like stains and tears in the seats and if everything smells okay. 


Make sure that any accessories the car should come with are in good condition. For example, check whether the vehicle has a spare wheel, if it's required to have one, and see if you have added things like a jack for lifting the car or an adapter to remove wheel nuts. This stuff isn't compulsory, but it's nice to have as it will prevent you from buying it all later. 

Wear and tear

You'll want to check against wear and tear. Although all second-hand cars will fade and wear, you'll want to ensure that it's consistent with their mileage. For example, a car showing a lot of wear and tear but with low mileage should be ringing alarm bells and is a car that should be avoided. 

There’s no definitive place that’s best to buy a car, as each place you can get one will have its own benefits and negatives. The right place to buy a car will depend on what you’re looking for and what features you value the most when searching for a used car. 

If you want to buy a car from the comfort of your home, then using an online dealer or car ad website will be the best place to go. However, if you’re looking for a car with an extended warranty that you can rely on, then it may be best to get one directly from the manufacturer. 

Plus, if you want a used car or a nearly-new vehicle, that will also dictate the best places to look when searching for a car. 

Despite all the different options, the best places to buy a car from will all be safe and secure, have various options, and sell cars that are well priced. All the providers and businesses to buy a car mentioned in this article and reviewed on Car Adviser are excellent options, so finding the right one depends on what you want to get out of your car.

The car buying process should take no definitive amount of time. Some people could take weeks searching for the right car, another week or two negotiating with the seller, and then it could take another week or two to have the car ready for delivery or pick-up. 

In other situations, such as if you’re buying online, the car buying process could be a lot quicker, with the time taken from car selection t