So you’re floating towards the front door of that guy you met on Gumtree and you’re struggling not to smile, aren’t you? Because you know you’re about to be zooming out of there with a shiny, newish car. But you’ve got to stash that thought in the happy bank for a minute, and morph into business mode – it’s time to get the deal of the century.

Twelve minutes, two handshakes and several awkward moments later, you’re out of there. And surprise surprise – your new car takes you all the way up to the end of the road, before it chunters twice, and breaks down. Where did you go wrong? Well, you spent way too much time making your deposit in the happy bank, for a start. And you hadn’t read this blog yet either. To help you out ahead of next time, here are all the questions to ask before you buy a used car.

What the hell is a cambelt?

Look – nobody knows. Your uncle who thinks he’s handy with cars doesn’t know. Nasa doesn’t know. And we’re pretty sure that most of the people selling cars on Gumtree don’t know. So here’s a leg-up on all of them: the cambelt is a really important part of the engine, and if it breaks, it could cost you thousands of pounds. Make sure the records show that it’s been serviced in the last year. If not, think about replacing it ASAP for peace of mind.

How much is this car going to cost me?

Now unless you’re Roman Abramovich – in which case, hi Roman – you’re obviously going to take the price of the car into account when you buy it. But even if the initial cost seems low, a used car can end up costing you more than you think. Get insurance quotes and check tax rates before you buy, and take the cost of likely repairs into account too.

Am I buying from the seller?

Another mythical object haunts the dreams of used car buyers – the V5C registration document. Like the cambelt, most people will have trouble finding it, but it’s vital to give the V5C a check when you’re buying a car. The document shows both the registered keeper and the vehicle owner, so you can be sure that the person you’re buying the car from actually has the right to do so. If not, you could be giving thousands of pounds to a stranger, for no reason – just like the time you bought magic beans from that bearded lady.

Is that bit supposed to be like that?

Check everything – and if something doesn’t look right, ask the question. If the seller has nothing to hide, they’ll have a good answer. If not, they’ll mumble and avoid eye contact like a 4-year-old who recently discovered your Easter egg stash. Things to look out for include misaligned panels, mismatched colours, stains on seats and carpets, and missing keys. Service history is vital, so ask for historical MOT certificates and regular servicing records. If they’ve gone missing, then you should go missing too – get out of there quickly.

At Citygate, all our used cars come with 12-month warranties and every vehicle we sell is subject to a 142-point check and a test-drive inspection too. If something doesn’t make the grade, you won’t see it on our forecourt – so you can buy with complete peace of mind. Get in touch or pop into your local Citygate dealership today.