If you’re planning on buying a used car, you’ve likely done plenty of research online. You may have seen some articles giving general advice about what to look for when buying a used car and in this article, we hit five key points that will help you get the most out of your next purchase.

Determine the kind of vehicle you require

The first thing to consider is the type of car you'll need and how you'll use it. Do you need a multipurpose vehicle with more than five seats, or would you prefer a standard family vehicle?

If you'll be driving a lot of motorway miles, a diesel car may be your best choice, whilst if you'll be mostly driving around town, a petrol engine would likely be your best choice. Do you think environmentally friendly cars are available, such as electric cars, hybrids, or LPG models?

After choosing the kind of car you want to fit your budget, you will need to check the availability, remembering that the different makes and models offer different features, reliability & value.

For example, you may find that a used VW Jetta is less expensive than a VW Golf, even though their major difference is that the Jetta is a saloon whereas the Golf is a hatchback.

The other thing to consider is the maintenance and running costs of the vehicle you choose. Having a great car doesn't equate to that if you can't afford the running costs such as fuel consumption, road tax, insurance, MOTs, servicing, and repairs.

Calculate your payment capacity

Knowing the type of car you need will give you an idea of what you can afford. Searching classified ads online, reading your local newspaper, and looking at an online price guide are the easiest ways to get an idea of what the average vehicle costs will help you make an informed decision about how much to spend.

Cash is the cheapest way to buy a used car - if you're raiding savings, negotiate a cash discount with the seller. Consider finance options - personal loan, purchase credit card or dealer financing.

In any case, regardless of how you pay, it's imperative that you buy based on your spending power. The better car will always be just above your budget, but staying within budget helps you not stretch your finances too far.

Get to know the car

The cash is sorted, and you're looking at the vehicle you want - but don't hand over the cash yet. Make sure you verify the car's history and identity to ensure it hasn't been written off, stolen or is still financed.

If you want to prove the car's ownership, enter the car's make and registration on the DVLA website. In addition to the engine size, vehicle colour, day of first registration, road tax expiration date and annual road tax price, this will also tell you about the vehicle's status.

Do not buy the car if this description does not match the ones of the one you're considering. Police should be notified because it might be a 'ringer' (people who are giving another car's identity) and should be investigated.

Check the car's paperwork - ideally, it should have old MOT certificates and a full service and maintenance history - while checking the mileage against old documents and the advisory notes from the last MOT - this will give you an idea of any problems the vehicle has.

Check to see if the model you're purchasing has any known problems and that they have already been addressed or that these problems are included in the price.

Take the car for a test drive and check it out

The first step would be to avoid checking the car at night or in particularly bad weather since several things can be overlooked.

Inspect the bodywork of the car for dents, scratches, and rust, particularly under sills and wheel arches, as well as uneven gaps in the bodywork, as these indicate poorly repaired collision damage.

Verify the oil level and, if buying a petrol vehicle, that the oil is a light, yellowy-brown colour - dirty oil could be an indication of poor maintenance. Make sure there are no leaks of oil or water, as these can indicate a serious engine problem.

Make sure all the non-engine electrics are working as these are the most common causes of faults in used cars, including the lights, heating, heated screens, and radio (no need to replace the radio, but it can be a hassle).

It's time to take the car for a test drive after you've given it a thorough once-over. This is the time to make certain the vehicle does what you would expect it to do: accelerate and brake, as well as check the clutch and gearbox.

Pay attention to any odd noises such as rattling or clunking, which may be indicative of mechanical problems. Make sure the car does not list to one side by taking your hands off the wheel when safe to do so. This could indicate tracking or suspension problems.

If you’re not particularly knowledgeable about cars, ask someone to join you during the inspection. A family or friend who owns a car will do. Hiring an inspector or car specialist is also fine to conduct a more thorough inspection.

Pay less than the asking price

You can call it what you want, but few of us are good at bargaining, negotiating, or bartering.

If you know what you want to pay, offer a lower price as a starting point. However, there is no guarantee that a seller will get their advertised price. There's room for negotiation from both sides and you should be able to reach an agreement.

Ask the seller for a discount if you are paying with cash and if there are any potentially costly repairs that will be needed soon. Make sure the service price reflects items such as worn tyres or an incomplete MOT.

Advice after the sale

It's unlikely that you'll have as much comeback if something goes wrong when you buy a car from an auction or a private seller as you would if you bought it from a trader.