Driving a used car before you buy.

Driving a used car before you buy.

How to test drive a used car.

Testing a car at a dealership, the rules.


We advise a car test drive for around 20 minutes where you can achieve the national speed limit. It is best practice to drive the vehicle at slow speeds and across bumpy or uneven road surfaces.

We include our industry-leading car buying guide with every CarVeto Platinum check. Enter your vehicle registration number and take a look right now – enter a VRM.


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


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.


how to test drive a used car before you buy it


Test driving a used car without insurance?

When buying from a dealer expect to be covered under their trader’s policy. If it’s a private sale you’ll need an existing fully comprehensive policy that allows you to drive any vehicle, third party only.

If you are uncertain, contact your insurance company ahead of time.


Test driving a car for buying a used car that is genuine and good value


  • Start the engine and check once more that 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


Get up to speed now and check for:

  • 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 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


Stationary car 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 car test drive ask yourself “how does the vehicle make me feel?”
If it feels good, you probably have the right vehicle provided it passes our online checks.

As we have already mentioned, you get complimentary access to our complete used car buyers guide with every Platinum car check purchased via CarVeto. Use our free check service and make a start.

Get details on a DVLA logbook check.


The team at CarVeto.

Get a free CarVeto history check before you test drive a used car


Powered by FeedBurner

Read more articles from our
CarVeto blogroll

DVLA Logbook Checks When Buying a Car.

DVLA Logbook Checks When Buying a Car.

Case Study of how to carry out an effective V5C car logbook check.

Vital steps for every motorist before they buy a new car.


A recent customer of ours whom we will call Andrew was planning to buy a 2006 Chrysler Pt Cruiser Limited from a local dealer in the Midlands, UK. He spoke with the dealers on the phone to confirm the date of registration, how many owners the vehicle had and its general condition.

Andrew had verbal confirmation that the vehicle was registered 31st October 2005 with 2 owners from new (this is equal to 1 former keeper) after a DVLA logbook check.

Next, Andrew ran a CarVeto vehicle enquiry.

The primary reason Andrew bought a CarVeto check was to ensure there was no outstanding finance, major accidents or theft issues.

Our online checks confirmed this information which initially gave the green light for Andrew to go ahead and inspect the car (with exception to a number plate transfer that occurred on February 2007).


Attention to detail

Andrew examined all the information contained in his CarVeto report but noticed a discrepancy in our data compared to what the dealer had disclosed.

The selling dealer stated the vehicle was 2 owners from new (as stated via a V5 check) but Andrew’s CarVeto report stated 5 owners from new.

CarVeto had also reported the vehicle was registered from new on 30th January 2007, almost 16 months later than what the dealer has reported.

Andrew immediately contacted our support team who investigated further.


We ran a manual check on the car using the free service provided by the DVLA .gov website https://vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk/.

Date or registration matched on both CarVeto and DVLA as January 2007 despite the dealer stating late 2005.

Run a DVLA Logbook Check with CarVeto


Powered by FeedBurner

online logbook checks with the DVLA
CarVeto V5C logbook checker

Here’s a snippet from Andrew’s email to us:


check if a vehicle is taxed or has an mot


Unlike CarVeto, DVLA does not disclose the number of owners a car has so our team decided to contact DVLA directly to investigate a bit further.


We quickly confirmed that the number of owners recorded by DVLA and CarVeto was correct. The vehicle was 5 owners from new. This meant the DVLA logbook needed checking a second time as it was likely to be fraudulent.


After a conversion with the dealers, it turned out they had taken the car in part exchange some weeks earlier and were cleverly deceived into believing the car was 2005 with 1 previous owner from new.


A good lesson for car buyers

67% Of our customers admitted they did not compare the car owner information on their Veto check with the car documentation. Of the 67%, more than 90% said they had bought a CarVeto to ensure the car had no outstanding finance or had ever been stolen.

Andrew was a little more vigilant than most car buyers and it saved him from losing over £2,000 and considerable stress.

Our message is clear – to purchase a car that is genuine, reliable and good value for money it is crucial to buy a CarVeto Platinum check and corroborate the information you have bought with the vehicle’s documentation.

If you have suffered from logbook fraud, please get in touch with our support team as we’d love to hear from you and might be able to help.


The team, CarVeto


Car Document Check

Car Document Check

Documentation checks.

DVLA & Ministry of Transport (MOT) vehicle checks.


Your Veto Platinum check provides valuable in-depth data 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. Data is gathered from the DVLA vehicle checks system together with Police Theft Markers, the MIAFTR and National Insurance Database.

The result is a simple to understand vehicle report and clear answer on the validity of a car and if it is safe and legal to buy.


Car document check

A five or ten-minute check of vehicle documentation is another proven way of ensuring a wise investment. In a previous article, we spoke of the ease with which a vendor can falsify service history. There are further elaborate ways to hide the historical facts behind a used car. Use the information provided below and compare it with the documentation belonging to the vehicle.


dvla car check of documentation including V5C logbook, service history and MOT history


Below are some important checks to safeguard your money:

  • Can the seller show you the V5C registration document provided by DVLA? You won’t be able to tax the vehicle without it
  • 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 business name)
  • Does the registration document have a DVLA 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 Veto Platinum check?
  • Has the VIN plate been tampered with?
  • Do the VIN numbers etched on the windows, lights or body match the VIN plate, V5C and Veto Platinum check?
  • 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 cambelt 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 Veto Platinum. 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
  • Check for radio and key codes
  • Are there spare keys with the vehicle? If so, do they unlock the vehicle, remotely? Do they start the vehicle?
  • Is there a handbook kit? This can usually be downloaded if it’s not present


This is a basic list that makes up a solid DVLA vehicle check.

Our general rule of thumb is: if you feel uncertain about the aspects of a vehicle’s paperwork, do not buy. Instead, ask questions and contact the workshops that have MOT’d and serviced the car. You can also walk away and avoid all risk.

Read our previous article about tyre and boot checks.

The team, CarVeto.

Get a free car check now


Powered by FeedBurner

Car Tyre and Boot Check

Car Tyre and Boot Check

Boot and tyres check.

Understanding tyre tread depth law.


During the buying process, CarVeto recommends visual inspections of each area of the vehicle. This includes the engine, bodywork, interior, electrical components, tyre checks, boot-well and documentation. You also need to run a history report to ensure the car is genuine and legal to buy.

Our car history check provides in-depth data on the background of a used vehicle. Visit this page to run your own free check. You’ll have the option to purchase our Veto Platinum check for £12.50 that provides all available data on a vehicle from Experian finance, Police markers, DVLA and other automotive sources.

Below is our quick tyre checker and boot-well guide that will help you to make a wise purchase:


Guide to checking the tyres on a used vehicle


Checking the boot well

Checking the boot area correctly can be as important as the engine. Especially paying attention to the spare wheel or puncture repair kit, wheel brace and jack.

  • Begin by opening the boot and feel and smell for any damp or moisture. If you sense any dampness the black, rubber seal around the boot area may be split/broken. Look at the rubber surround for signs of breakage
    It could also mean the vehicle has been deep valeted and not dried correctly to avoid moisture and damp building up
  • Check the underside of the boot mat as this area often holds water and may need drying out


Remove boot mat if possible for the next steps

  • If the vehicle has a spare wheel remove it completely along with all the tools such as jack, wheel brace, spanners etc
  • Look for water inside the boot well (where the spare wheel lives)
  • Examine the spare wheel and tyre. Ensure the tyre is pumped and legal to go on the road
  • If the vehicle is fitted with a “get you home” puncture kit ensure it is operating and ready to use. It is best to test the kit where possible
  • Use the wheel brace and see that it fits the nuts holding the wheels to the vehicle
  • Most modern vehicles are fitted with alloy wheels. Ensure there is a locking wheel nut and it fits correctly


Checking the tyres

Driving with damaged, faulty or illegal tyres can result in a roadside fine and insurance invalidation. Consider that tyres are the only part of a vehicle that is in contact with the road.

Tyres that are fitted to a vehicle must be ‘Fit for Purpose’ and be ‘free from any defects which might damage the road or endanger any person’.

Tyres must be correctly inflated too.

‘Fit for Purpose’ means that a tyre must:

  • Be compatible with the types of tyres fitted to the other wheels
  • Not have any lump, bulge or tear caused by separation or partial failure of the structure
  • Not have a cut or tear and not have any part of the ply or cord exposed

Check tyre walls for:

  • Splits, holes or chunks ripped out of the tyre sides
  • Sizes of the tyres – they must all match i.e. 195/55/R15
  • 1.6mm tyre tread is the legal limit (most tyres have a marker to indicate legal limit)


You might also check out Merityre who offers some great advice on tyre law.

We offer free guides on each step to buying a used vehicle. Read our last post that describes a car engine check and some common things to look out for before you buy.

The team, CarVeto


Run an instant car check


Powered by FeedBurner

Engine Checks

Engine Checks

Under the bonnet

How to check car engine health


CarVeto history checks cannot assure the health of a vehicle engine. Therefore, this section provides a vital step to avoiding an unreliable vehicle and expensive repair bills.

Engine checks only take a few minutes to run.

Begin by checking that the engine is cold or slightly warm, to avoid the 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 notice 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 on a petrol vehicle a service may be due – check when the vehicle was last serviced, via the service book.
  • Mayonnaise-type substances in the oil indicate terminal problems


If the oil level is below minimum levels via the dip stick 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 levels via the dip stick it may indicate the engine is burning oil and the seller is regularly topping up.


Checking the expansion bottle

Once more, 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 lead to terminal mechanical issues


how to identify if a car engine is reliable


Additional engine checks

Examine the engine block checking for any oil or water leaks. Bend down under the front bumper and look under the engine for evidence of oil or water leaks. Look at the ground under the engine for any dried oil stains that could indicate an oil leak.


Battery check

View the battery to see if it looks recently replaced.

Most batteries last about 5 years. You may also see a battery looking glass that should signal a green colour. A green display indicates the battery is in good condition. A black display indicates the battery is near its end of life.


Final engine checks

Start the engine from cold listening for any churning, chiming, knocking or grinding noises. Anything that sounds out of the ordinary. Problematic engines may make unusual noises from cold.

Whilst the engine is running turn the steering wheel to full lock. Ensure there are no squeaking or whining noises whilst turning the steering wheel. Such noises can indicate a leaky or broken steering rack.

Read our last post about car dashboard warning checks

The team, CarVeto

Want a free car history check?


Powered by FeedBurner

Car Buying Guide Part V.

Car Buying Guide Part V.

How to check car electrics before you buy.

Dashboard warning lights and their meanings.


In just a few minutes you can check every electrical item on the vehicle is working correctly.

This is an important series of checks as dealers are less likely to agree to electrical repairs compared to mechanic ones.

The adage goes, ‘sorry, that is not covered by our basic warranty’.

Below is a full list of electrical components. Certain items will not be fitted to all makes and models:

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

Pay attention to:

Engine management light | ABS Lights | Airbag Lights

warning lights including ABS, engine management and glow plug


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.

After an ignition test switches the engine off but leaves the ignition on. This allows you to test electric items while ensuring the vehicle battery is reasonable. If the battery is poor and about to fail it’s likely to do so after these tests are carried out.


Ensure each of the following is working correctly:

  • 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
  • HornSide lights and headlights and main beam
  • Wipers front
  • Wiper rear
  • Hazards
  • Any additional features the vehicle may have


Restart the engine and test all features listed below:

  • 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 can be 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
  • Rev counter
  • Dashboard background illumination lights


In last weeks article, we demonstrated how to perform a car mileage check via a visual inspection (this is secondary to our online mileage check)

The team, CarVeto

Run a free online car check


Powered by FeedBurner