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Tools of the trade…

Buying a car is fraught with dangers. Handily though, we live in the future. So we can arm ourselves.

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Buying a car is a stressful affair. We know all about it, and we also know that it doesn’t simply get easier the more you do it, as Pollitt’s escapades in car-buying prove. The man has had more cars than than an M6 traffic jam, yet he’s still no better at it. And to a degree, he’s armed with some knowledge. They say that knowledge is power, and in the case of buying a car, that statement is very much true. You need tools. But not metal ones.

Your mates down the boozer, or your odd neighbour, Phil, with the gnomes, will tell you the knowledge you need is that of a mechanic. You need to know the ins and outs of a car’s oily bits. That’s nonsense. Obviously you need to know what you’re after, otherwise you might set your sights on a Freelander and end up going to view a Sherman tank. But that’s about it. The knowledge you really need is about a car’s history. Knowing this, you can decided whether it’s worth going to view. Or, if you’re greeted by a stereotypical used car salesman, you can make sure he’s telling the truth.

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The online world is the car-buyer’s friend, and the tools available are making it harder and harder for sellers to hide a vehicle’s history. And that’s good, because it will give you the peace of mind that is often somewhat elusive in car-buying. So, let’s look at what’s out there to make things better for you. And before we do, it’s worth mentioning that we’re focusing on the free tools, here.

First of our favourite tools is the DVLA website.

Here, you can do a basic vehicle check. All you need to know is the registration number and the make of the car. Tap it into the website and the DVLA will tell you whether or not the car has tax or MOT. It will also tell you when both are due to expire. Handy, that.

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Next up, we’re staying within the digital confines of the DVLA. This time, with the ability to check the MOT history of a vehicle. How bloody clever is that? This can be used even if the car is out of MOT. Particularly handy if the seller tells you it ran out, or it only failed on a bulb. This service will tell you if he’s telling the truth, or if it failed because the back wheels fell off. All you need is the registration number.

It also includes the mileage at the time of MOT tests. A top tip is to check the mileage between fails and passes. If it stays the same, that means the work was probably carried out on site before being re-tested. If it jumps up, you have a question to ask the seller.

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Next up, we have a handy site that will let you know if a car is insured or not. As with the MOT history site, you just need the registration number of the vehicle in question. Now, in reality this website for your peace of mind. After all, it’s your responsibility to make sure your car is insured. However, it has use in a buying capacity, too.

If you’re buying from a sales pitch, the chances are it won’t be insured. Fair enough. However, if it’s a private seller who claims the car is daily use, but it has no insurance, question it. AskMID, as the name suggests, uses the Motor Insurance Database. That’s what the Police use. If it’s not on there, ask why?

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Finally, we have Cazana. Not heard of it? No, neither had we until out mate from What Car? pointed it out. And what a tool it is. It’s free to sign up and once you do, it becomes a powerful car-buying tool. Tap the registration into the website and it will give you a whole host of information in one click.

What sort of information, you ask? Well, you get the mot history as per the DVLA’s website. Handy. You also get the dates of all previous owner changes. Clever. And, you get date and information every time the number plate changed (personal plates, etc). Smart. Oh, and you’re shown every time the car was listed online for sale. HOW CLEVER IS THAT? And it’s free, you just have to register.

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If you’re on the hunt for a car, remember this page. These are the digital tools that will arm you well in the battlefield that is used cars. And they’re all free to use. You can’t argue with that.

And to think, our grandparents said the future would be rubbish. Pah, how wrong were they?