If you are after a bargain, opting to buy used cars online can see you save a significant sum – but there are a few things to keep in mind before you embark on this course of action.

For instance, achieving value for money is not the only thing you want to be certain of when you purchase a second-hand motor – you should also have the assurance that it is going to be safe.

However, there are a few simple steps you can follow to give you a better chance of driving off in your dream used motor sooner than you think.

Before you even begin to look at cars you should calculate exactly how much you have to spend, particularly if you will be relying on outside finance.

Remember to include the cost of insuring the new vehicle and any repairs that will be required if you have opted to invest in a model that needs work.

You should also consider what exactly you will be using the car for and how many people will be driving or be passengers in it. This may help you to stay on track and not get distracted by any luxury sports cars you come across as you search.

Once you have found a car you think is suitable, you should call the seller and ask for further details.

This is the time when you should request a car history check or find out whether you can arrange your own through a third party. This is a vital step as it allows you to determine whether the vehicle is still attached to outstanding finance, or if it has been involved in a theft or accident in the past.

You can also ask the seller to give you a clear picture of the state the vehicle is in, what repairs are needed – if any – and how long is left before it requires an MOT.

However, although you can find out a lot about a particular model through the information available online and by speaking to the seller, before you take the plunge and open your wallet it is always best to see the car for yourself.

Ahead of money changing hands it is advisable to take the motor out for a test spin to ascertain how comfortable you feel behind the wheel. This should also be a time for checking how the brakes feel, whether you have trouble changing gear and if there appear to be any engine problems such as black smoke coming from the exhaust.

As well as driving it, you should also carefully examine the vehicle while it is stationary. Look out for rust on the bodywork or any evidence of a collision.

Inside, you should inspect the mileage – typically a car will clock up between 10,000 and 15,000 miles each year and any more than that may mean you are not getting such a bargain.

In addition to the car itself, ask to see all of its documents and check everything is in order. You should also look for the Vehicle Identification Number and ensure it corresponds with the figure printed on the window, chassis and engine plate.

By not forgetting any of these points, you can be almost certain you will get a good deal when you buy your second-hand car.

And by also choosing a vehicle that has undergone a mechanical and electrical inspection and that comes with a warranty you could soon be driving away in a real bargain.

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