Buying a Car – The Simple Guide

Buying a car in the UK can be confusing if you haven’t done it before. However, it isn’t too difficult and if you follow the correct procedure, you shouldn’t have any problems:

  1. Find a car to buy
  2. View and test drive the car (if possible) and check its registration document
  3. If the car is over 3 years old, it needs an MOT – does it have one?
  4. Does the car have a current tax disc?
  5. Should you perform an HPI Check?
  6. Negotiate the price and place a deposit
  7. Arrange insurance for your car
  8. Pay for the car and update the vehicle’s registration document


1. Find a car to buy – this could be from private ads (e.g. newspapers, Auto Trader), eBay, motor auctions or from a car dealer.


2. View and test drive the car (not always possible at auctions) and check the documents – at least the V5C vehicle registration document.

Make sure that the vehicle’s VIN and other details are the same as those on the V5C. This is very important – walk away if the details do not match.

Choose one of our simple guides to learn more:


3. If the car is over 3 years old, it needs a current MOT. Ask for this – if the car doesn’t have one, I would recommend trying to get the seller to MOT it as a condition of the sale.

Otherwise you can take the risk and MOT it yourself as soon as you buy it. (Note that it is only legal to drive cars without an MOT on public roads if you are on your way to an MOT test appointment).

To learn more about MOTs, see our MOT Testing Simple Guide


4. Does the car have a current tax disc? If not, you will need to arrange for this to be done when the vehicle is collected or before. It is illegal to drive without tax. If you are buying from a dealer, try to persuade them to include some tax in the price.

Car tax can be bought for 6 or 12 months – click here for all the details.


5. Consider performing an HPI Check on the car if buying privately. The main benefits of an HPI Check are to ensure that the vehicle is not stolen, has no outstanding finance and has not been written-off by an insurance company.

If buying from a dealer, ask them if they have HPI-checked the car and ask to see proof if you are not happy.


6. Negotiate the price and place a deposit to reserve the car.

If you are buying from a dealer, remember that it isn’t just price that is negotiable. If the car is due a service or needs to be taxed, try to get that included in the sale price.

Even things like a tank of petrol or some new rubber floor mats are worth haggling about – they all cost less than for the dealer than they would cost you in cash and it is sometimes easier for the dealer to give extras away than to reduce the sale price.

Once you are happy with the price, you will need to pay a deposit to reserve the car.


7. Arrange insurance for your new car. You will not be able to collect your car and drive it away without insurance. If you are buying from a car dealer, they may ask for proof of insurance before they let you leave (although not all do this).

Click here for our simple guide to car insurance

You can arrange car insurance instantly over the telephone or the internet – if you are not sure where to start, try searching for “car insurance” on Google or look up car insurance in a Yellow Pages directory. Get several quotations and compare them carefully.


8. Pay the remaining amount due on your car and collect the vehicle.

Make sure both you and the seller fill out the relevant sections of the V5C and post them off to the DVLA. Until this is done, you are not the registered keeper of the vehicle (even if you have paid for it). You should receive a new V5C in the post after 4-6 weeks.

The reverse of the V5C document provides detailed instructions on how it should be filled out. Read these!

You can find further information about vehicle registration on the website – here.

2 thoughts on “Buying a Car – The Simple Guide

  • December 20, 2018 at 11:10 am

    I found a really good website from internet, its free and tells you all the previous MOT’s and what they failed or advisory’s were, tells you the price of the car tax and other useful stuff. It provides you free car reg check and it is very useful!

  • November 9, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Simple Motoring,

    Touching on your article and point 3 about when a car is more than 3-years old and needing an MOT.
    DVLA provides some decent information on getting a car through its test. But, this
    MOT checklist test guide is pretty thorough and includes things I’d never thought about.


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