Used family cars: a buyer’s guide

Let’s face it: when you are looking for a new family car forget chrome wheels, bucket seats and go faster stripes, practicality and reliability are the key features.

Looking at practicality first, your three main choices are saloon, hatchback or MPV. Which one you choose will depend on the size of your family and of course your budget. Hatchbacks tend to have larger boots than saloons and easy access. When you go to view a car it’s a good idea to take a bulky items that usually goes in your car boot like a buggy or child’s trike along to check the fit.

When it comes to getting your kids in and out of a family car, good wide doors are the thing to look for. This is where MPVs come into their own with sliding rear doors and 7 seats (perfect for families with more than 3 children who need child seats). Citroen, Fiat, Ford and Kia all do 7 seat MPVs with a variety of specifications to choose from. Talking of seats, another useful feature to look for in a family car is stadium seating. Forget Bon Jovi — this just means the seats in the rear are higher than those in the front.

Functionality of used cars

Always check out the functionality of your potential new car’s features. For example, can you turn the front passenger airbag off easily? That will be essential if you want to carry a car seat in the front. Other family friendly extras to look for are ISOFIX mountings letting you switch child seats in and out easily. Plenty of pull down tables, seat pockets for toys and games and 12 volt sockets for plugging in games consoles and DVD players will help those car journeys go a little smoother too.

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used cars
By RP Norris under CC BY-SA 2.0


Now for reliability. Some brands have a great reputation for low breakdown risk. The Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Honda Accord came out top in research done by Warranty Direct as the most reliable. The worst offenders at the bottom of the list were the Renault Espace, Mercedes R-Class and Vauxhall Vectra. A warranty is another thing to consider when looking at a second hand car. Paying a slightly higher price might save you money on unexpected repairs later.

Research for used cars

When buying a used car, it pays to do your research. Make sure that the MOT is fully up to date. Be confident about opening the bonnet and taking a full look at as much of the car as possible, from the condition of the tyres to the interior and the engine. It’s worth knowing the price of basic car parts when considering the ease and practicality of replacing things like wiper blades and mirrors on a second hand car. For instance, Duramax Head Studs will cost you around $330. Some brands will have much higher repair and replacement costs than others. Always consider the mileage against the age of the car. If the car is older but has a low mileage you might get a good deal, but be wary of older cars with excessively high mileage.

When you call a dealer or an individual, always ask some basic questions to avoid ending up with a stolen vehicle. Ask for the registration number, make, model, tax disc details and MOT test number. Then get online and enter the car number plate into the DVLA’s vehicle enquiry service and make sure the details match up. You should also ask the seller to show you their VC5 certificate (the log book) and check it has a DVL watermark.

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Once you’ve done all of that you can get down to the really important question: what colour do you want your new car to be?

Why not share your tips for buying a used car?