A car buying guide written by automotive experts.

Buy a car with confidence.

The information shared in this complimentary guide is founded on 30 years of extensive motor industry knowledge and experience. Buy a car that’s a safe, legal and worthwhile investment.

The full CarVeto guide to buying a used car.

Useful before you buy

Car inspection service.

Affordable and nationwide

Useful service for private car buyers to have a vetted mechanic inspect a vehicle before purchase.

Get a quick no obligation quote

Car insurance check.

Is the vehicle insured?

Check, especially when buying privately. It’s illegal to keep an uninsured car unless it’s registered SORN with DVLA

Free askMID vehicle insurance check

Car insurance renewal quotes.

Cheaper car insurance

Speedy comparison tool that checks prices on 115 Insurance companies, in a few clicks. Check now on our parter website

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Important CarVeto car history checks.

Are you buying a problem?

Crucial CarVeto car checks

Make sure the car passes our essentials.

If it doesn’t, stop. Get more information!

Use these links for details on each component:


Car dealer secrets

What car dealers don't want you to know.

Dealers work to a minimum £1,000 profit margin per vehicle but expect this to increase from £2,000 to £5,000 depending on the price of the car.

Dealers don’t just earn from the car sale:

  • Finance packages
  • Insurances
  • Extended warranties
  • Part exchanges

Did you know that a dealer may earn the most from the resale of your old part exchanged car? See how much more we can sell your car for.

Most private car dealers buy from auction, refurbish and sell for profit.

Did you know that We By Any Car enter most of their purchases in car auctions?

Car dealers are forced to pay the government VAT on gross margin often making it the single biggest business running cost.

Ex mobility cars

What car dealers don't want you to know.

The good news about mobility owned vehicles


Serviced under contract via supplying dealer with no expense spared

Due to contract, mobility cars tend to be low mileage

The drawbacks of buying a preowned mobility


May suffer excessive wear due to wheelchair use and steering, peddle or seat adaptations

Damaged mobility cars fetch less at auction, which attracts dealers prepared to make excessive interior or exterior repairs. Picture how a car may have looked before it’s put for sale on the forecourt.


How to tell if a car is ex mobility?

Check the V5C registration document (car log book) registered keeper details that state
“Mobility Operations Ltd”

Save money and improve your buying experience

Unusually high part exchange prices indicate the dealer is desperate to sell. Maybe they’ve had their car a long time, or there is some other issue?


Where possible, view the vehicle without calling in advance to see if it is still for sale. It is best practice to hear an engine from stone-cold before you buy it. A dealer may check the vehicle and warm the engine first if they know you are on your way.


When part-exchanging, complete the registration document V5C yellow slip ‘notification of sale to a motor dealer’.

Include the dealer business name, address, date of sale and VAT number. As the registered keeper, it is your responsibility to notify the DVLA that you are selling.

Do Not rely on the dealers to manage.

Failure to notify DVLA will result in a fine.


Pay for a percentage of the car with a credit card

You are then protected under the Consumer Credit Act, 2015

It’s like a second warranty in case things go wrong, and you need to exercise legal rights


Specialist techniques for recognising
hidden accidents and repairs


Did you know that thousands of accident damage repairs are hidden from insurance companies, dealers and car history check services like CarVeto?

If the insurer isn’t notified of accident damage, it will not be recorded on the National Insurance Database (the cars are not written off, so drivers settle disputes between themselves)

It means millions of vehicles on the road have suffered minor to significant body repairs, which are excluded from public record.

Whilst some repairs are only cosmetic, others are severe and include replacement panels such as new bonnets, doors, boots and bumpers.


Wouldn’t you like to know if the car you buy has had significant repairs? Read on for guidance

Check 1

Are any car body panels repaired or replaced?


Look at the nuts and bolts that connect the wings and bonnet.

These images are from a VW Tiguan, but all modern cars have a similar design.

Is paint missing from the edges of the nuts and bolts that indicates the use of a spanner or ratchet?

It means the panels have been removed from the car, usually due to accident damage repairs!

How to check if a wing is replaced on a car.
How to check if a bonnet is replaced on a car.

Check 2

Door damage resulting from a previous accident


It’s more tricky to spot significant door panel repairs but open each door and look at the outer seam on the inside edge.

Check for inconsistencies between one door and another.

Are the doors the same finish on the inside edge?

If there are differences between door seams, the car might have suffered new door skins.

If you notice this type of damage, run more visual checks and look for other damage repaired panels.

How to check if a car door has been repaired.
How to check the distance between the wheel arch and tyre.

Check 3

Wheel arch finger measurement


Fingers are ideal for measuring the space between the tyre and its wheel arch.

How many fingers fit between the back of the tyre and the wheel arch?

Expect the same finger measurement on each wheel.

If you find differences, the vehicle may be out of alignment as a result of a front or rear end accident and poor repair.

Check 4

Measuring the gaps between panels


Imagine you were running a marble along the seam of adjoining panels, i.e. bonnet to wing.

Would the marble fall into the gap on one end but not the other?

Look for a consistent gap along both panel. Gaps bigger at one end than the other can be a sign of repaired or replaced panels due to accident damage.

How to check the gaps between the body panels of a car.
Look out for paint over spray on door and boot rubbers.

Check 5

Rubber seal overspray


Examine the black rubbers that seal the doors and boot shut.

Rubbers are found attached to the body of the vehicle upon opening the doors.

Look for paint over sprayed on the black rubbers for indication of cosmetic repair and poor workmanship.


Mileage fraud tricks you into buying a car that is illegitimate and potentially illegal to drive


Make sure the car you want to buy is not clocked.

Unique mileage dashboard on a used car.

Two years ago, only 1 in 15 cars had a mileage problem


Today it’s 1 in 10


1 in 10 cars we check have an incorrectly displayed mileage, which may be mileage fraud (otherwise known as rollback or clocking).

Your CarVeto certificate lets you know if there is an inconsistency between the mileage recorded and the history of the car.

The purpose of reducing miles is to increase value through deceiving potential buyers.

A vehicle with incorrect mileage may be dangerous to drive and is most likely worth less than its genuine counterpart.

Do remember, some mileage issues are genuine when a digital milometer was replaced due to a fault.

Read our detailed information on car clocking.

Failed electrical components are the single most difficult claim to pay out on a used car warranty


In just a few minutes, you can check every electrical item on a car.

These are an important series of checks, as dealers tent to begrudge electrical repairs compared to mechanic ones.

‘Sorry, that’s not covered under our basic warranty’.

Below is a full list of electrical components.

Begin by starting the vehicle to ensure all the dashboard lights illuminate and switch off in around 5 seconds of a running engine.


Pay special attention to:

  • Engine management light
  • ABS Lights
  • Airbag Lights


These are the more common warning lights for faults and costly mechanical repair.

Should any of these lights remain illuminated after a few seconds of starting the vehicle, there is likely to be a significant mechanical issue.

Vetting electrical items and warning lights on a car.
Checking the electrical components when buying a car.

Check all items work before you buy


  • Electric windows front and rear – also check windows on their independent switches
  • Electric sunroof
  • Electric mirrors
  • Electric seats
  • Heated seats
  • Central locking and remote central locking
  • Horn
  • Side lights and headlights and main beam
  • Wipers
  • Any additional features the vehicle may have


Repairing a faulty remote central locking system can cost between £200 and £600

Start the engine and check everything works


  • Power steering is light
  • Air conditioning runs very cold
    (wait up to a minute for ice-cold air) If the air-con is not working, a re-gas may be required. If not, the condenser may be faulty, which is a costly to repair.
  • Electric handbrake
  • Fog lamps front and rear
  • Stereo system / Bluetooth etc
  • Sat nav
  • Cruise control illumination
    (depends on make and model of vehicle, as some may need to be at speed for a warning light to activate)
  • Cigarette lighter for the USB port
  • Fuel gauge
  • Dashboard background illumination lights
Testing all car components before you buy.
Things to check under the bonnet of a car.

Checks under the bonnet can be money savers and totally worthwhile


Your CarVeto vehicle history check cannot assure the health of the car engine.

Making these vital checks is proven to reduce the risk of expensive mechanical repair bills (especially on cars over three-years old).

Checks take a few minutes to run.

Begin by checking that the engine is cold or slightly warm, to avoid risk of injury.

If the engine is already hot, it is worth asking the owner why. Ideally, the engine will be stone-cold to run the most effective engine checks.

Oil filler cap and dip stick


Open the oil filler cap and look out for any creamy or mayonnaise substances on the inside of the cap.

Pull out the oil dip stick, clean with a piece of cloth, dip back into place and pull out once more. Look for the oil level, oil colour or any unusual creamy substances.


Expect dark oil on a diesel engine


Expect a transparent oil with petrol engine vehicles.

If oil is darkened a little, the car may be due a service.

Diesel engine oil is typically dark.

Mayonnaise type substances in the oil indicate terminal problems.

If the oil level is below minimum, it means the working parts of the engine are not properly lubricated and may lead to significant mechanical issues.

If the oil level is above the maximum, it may indicate the engine is burning oil and the seller is regularly topping up.

Check engine lubricants.
Check engine lubricants.

Antifreeze and expansion bottle lubricants


Ensure the engine is cool or cold before opening the expansion bottle.

Expect a transparent liquid with yellow, pink or blue colouration, that signals antifreeze.

Look for white, creamy substances again, similarly to when dipping the oil stick. Creamy substances within the expansion bottle or its cap mean terminal mechanical issues.

The complete car test drive

Things to check under the bonnet of a car.

Drive insured


Insurance: Buying privately means you are relying on your own insurance policy to cover you in case of an accident.

Many fully comprehensive policies cover the third party to drive another vehicle. Check with your insurer. When buying from a dealer, expect to be covered under their trader’s policy.

A thorough test drive takes 20 minutes, where you can drive at the national speed limit.

It is also best practice to drive the vehicle at slow speeds and across bumpy or uneven road surfaces.

The idea is to put the vehicle under stress and test its performance in a range of conditions.



  • Start the engine and check all the dashboard lights come on and switch off in just a few seconds
  • Turn off the stereo, heaters and air-con so the vehicle is silent during your tests
  • Listen for suspension noises, knocking noises or grinding noises. Anything that indicates wear or breakage to parts of the vehicle
  • Pay special attention when driving over bumps and potholes, listening carefully for unusual noises
  • Drive a short while on bumpy surfaces with the driver’s window open. It is surprising how different a vehicle can sound under stress
  • Test the gearbox by listening to the vehicle in each gear. Is there grinding or whining noises in any gear? This can indicate gearbox bearings and potential expense

Step 2

Drive at speed


  • Steering vibrations (possible wheel balancing or perhaps a bent drive shaft)
    Pulling to the left or right on an even road (possible tracking issues)
  • Brake hard and put the brakes under stress. Is there any vibration in the steering wheel under fierce braking? (brake discs may be warped and need replacing)
    Are there any grinding noises under braking (brake pads front/rear may need replacing)?
  • Clutch test of the vehicle
  • High gear and fierce acceleration. A revving engine, but little acceleration, means the clutch is probably slipping. A rather costly repair
  • Near the end of testing, try the steering on full lock and pull away slowly. Check for clunking or crunching noises that indicate CV joint (constant velocity) wear and breakage. CV joints are failure items on a standard UK MOT test and rather expensive to replace. Turn the steering wheel to the opposite lock and carry out the same test
  • After completing the test drive, leave the engine ticking over. Check the temperature gauge is working and the vehicle is not running overly hot

Step 3

Stationary checks


  • Depress the clutch pedal and listen for any dramatic changes in the sound of the engine.
    Whining noises or dramatic changes in sound may indicate clutch thrust bearing issues
  • Next, switch off the engine and wait 10 seconds before restarting the vehicle. The engine should start the same both hot and cold.
  • Pay special attention to diesel engines. If a diesel vehicle struggles to start when hot or cold, there may be serious, expensive repair bills ahead
  • Finally, at the end of the test drive, ask yourself, “how does the vehicle make me feel?


If it feels good, you probably have the right vehicle.

Thorough documents check

Things I must checked in the car documentation.

Checking car documents


Your CarVeto Platinum check provides valuable information about the vehicle you are planning to buy.

Included is owner information, date of owner transfer, VIN numbers, engine numbers, full MOT history and more.

Use the information provided and compare it with the documentation belonging to the vehicle.


Final important document checks to safeguarding your money

  • Can the seller show you the V5C registration document? You won’t be able to tax the vehicle without it, or at least the green slip
    Learn more about buying a car without a V5 log book
  • Is the seller the registered keeper shown on the V5C? If not, why are they selling for someone else? Can they provide identification on behalf of the registered keeper? (if buying from a dealer, the vehicle probably won’t be registered in their name)
  • Does the registration document have a watermark?
  • Are there any spelling mistakes on the registration document? Does the VIN (vehicle identification number), engine number and colour match the V5C logbook and your Veto Platinum check?
  • Does the number plate match the V5C and CarVeto Platinum check?
  • Has the VIN plate been tampered with?
  • Do the VIN numbers etched on the windows, lights or body match the VIN plate, and V5?
  • Are there any scratches on the windows to remove etched-in marks?
  • Does the seller have a current MOT certificate (if the car is more than three years old)? If so, does the information match your Veto Platinum check?
  • When was the vehicle last serviced?
  • Service history is easily falsified. Consider calling at least one of the workshops claiming to have serviced the vehicle (from the rubber stamps in the service book). You can provide the registration number and ask when the workshop serviced the vehicle and the work carried out
  • Does the information correlate with the service book stamps?
  • Many modern vehicles have a cam belt which will need replacing after a certain period and mileage (find manufacturers intervals at a supplying dealer)
  • Has the cam belt been replaced and if so by whom, and when? It’s good to call the workshop who claim to have carried out this work
  • Compare the MOT certificate information with your CarVeto HPI check. Check advisory items that may be costly on the next MOT test
  • When buying from a dealer, insist on a 12-month MOT and no advisory items as a part of that agreement
  • Compare the mileage at each MOT test for any anomalies
  • Are there spare keys with the vehicle? If so, do they unlock the vehicle, remotely? Do they start the vehicle?