Checklist: Everything you need to do when you buy a car

Buying a car is a complicated process. And everyone wants to be sure they’re not missing a trick.

We’ve compiled the ultimate car buying checklist, containing everything you need to know and consider during the buying process. It will help you with each step, from getting all the details you need at the first research phase, what to do when you’re at the car dealership, and finally the next steps if you go ahead with the purchase.

We look at budgeting, test driving the car, asking all the right questions and how to make sure you get the best deal.

Before you visit the dealer

Always research the car before visiting a dealer. You need to have a fair idea of what you want and what you’re prepared to spend. Thorough research at the start will ensure you buy a car that is suited to your budgets and your needs.

Know your budget

  • Make sure you know how much you can afford to spend, whether that is outright or via finance
  • Consider the running costs, within your budget – insurance, fuel, servicing and more
  • Look up the trade-in value of your current car (get a free valuation online here)
  • Know your top limit and stick to it

Get the running costs

Research the car variants

If you know the car you want, make sure you research all the available variants

  • Check the engine size and fuel options available
  • Check the price for different variants, including 3 and 5 door versions
  • Read customer and press reviews
  • Look at standard and additional features and technology
  • Compare prices and spec for similar cars

Still trying to find the right car for you? Read our step-by-step guide to choosing a new car, explaining how to select everything from body style to fuel type.

Visiting the dealer

Once you are comfortable with your car choice, the next step is to visit the dealer. It’s vital to view the car and go for a test drive to get a true feel for it. This is also the time to ask any the questions you may still have.

Call the dealer first

  • Always call before visiting to check the car is available. If so, then book an appointment time convenient for you
  • Your driver’s licence
  • The details of your current car, if you want to discuss trading it in
  • Any details of the car you’ve been researching, or a copy of the advert if applicable
  • What are the model types, trim levels and upgrades – which is the best variant to suit your needs?
  • What features are standard and which can be added?
  • How long is the manufacturer warranty?
  • Does the dealer offer additional warranty and what are the terms and conditions?
  • Does the car come with add-ons like free recovery?

What to take to the dealers

  • Your driver’s licence
  • The details of your current car, if you want to discuss trading it in
  • Any details of the car you’ve been researching, or a copy of the advert if applicable

Good questions to ask – new cars

If you’re buying a new car, now is the time to consider what variant and options you want.

  • What are the model types, trim levels and upgrades – which is the best variant to suit your needs?
  • What features are standard and which can be added?
  • How long is the manufacturer warranty?
  • Does the dealer offer additional warranty and what are the terms and conditions?
  • Does the car come with add-ons like free recovery?

Good questions to ask – used cars

If buying a used car, make sure you know what you’re getting by asking detailed questions about the car’s history and condition.

  • What’s the service history is
  • A list of the checks the dealership has carried out
  • How many previous owners the car has had
  • Has the car been involved in any kind of accident?
  • Does it have any modifications? (These can affect insurance)
  • When is the service and MOT due?
  • What is the current mileage
  • Is there any remaining warranty?

Check used car documents

If the car is used, you need to check if it comes with all the important documents.

  • The V5C registration document/logbook present? (This is compulsory to sell the car)
  • Details of the service history. Is it full or partial? Partial service history will have an impact on the car’s price
  • If applicable, does the car have a current MOT certificate?
  • Is the vehicle handbook present?

What to do on the test drive

Negotiating the deal

If you decide you want to buy the car, remember to keep your max budget in mind at all times

Agree price and terms

  • Agree the trade-in and purchase price and be sure to understand everything that includes
  • Agree the finance amount if relevant, taking into account deposit, interest rate, length of contract and any fees and charges
  • Double-check finance terms like mileage caps and contract and payment dates
  • Check if there are any servicing plans you could take out
  • Agree the deposit amount
  • Understand the waiting time for the car and agree the collection date

Trade-in your old car

  • Always check the market trade-in value before you start negotiations so you know how much you have to play with
  • Make sure to take along all car documents like the service history and MOT certificate
  • On the day, remove all items from your old car before handing it over
  • Fill out the V5C documents for your old car – the dealer will help you with this
  • Send your old car’s V5C document to the DVLA to say you no longer own it
  • Apply for a tax refund on your old car if applicable – the DVLA will refund tax on any full months remaining

Read our blog on how to get the most money for your used car.

On collection day

  • Arrange car insurance from collection day and cancel your previous policy – many insurers will simply switch the cover
  • Pay the full balance, get a receipt and you’re ready to go!
  • Keep all paperwork from the deal, including finance, warranty and other documentation

Following the purchase

  • Call the dealer immediately if there is any issue or problem with the car
  • Most importantly, enjoy driving your new car!

Hopefully, this car buying checklist will help you understand what to consider at each step of the journey and all you’ll have to worry about it where to drive your car first and who to show it off to.

Here at Jardine Motors, we sell 23 car brands at over 70 dealerships around the UK. Browse our range of new cars and used cars online or get in touch with our dealers to arrange a test drive.