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Are used cars reliable? How to buy a reliable used car

Our guide to choosing a reliable used car – what you should look for, and why it matters

A man in blue overalls checking a car tyre with a woman dressed in a light blue shirt

If you’re shopping for a new car, reliability is probably one of your top requirements.

A reliable car usually needs far fewer repairs and upkeep that sit outside of usual wear and tear, so it’s a good way to keep running costs low and your driving experience faff-free.

Shopping for a used car can fill you with doubts that you’re not getting something that will be as reliable as a brand-new model.

While it's true that buying a used car from any random seller is a risk, you can definitely get a reliable used car from a trusted source.

You’ll just need to do your research beforehand and don’t rush into a sale for a good deal that could cost you more in the long run.

There are a few things you can look for when choosing a reliable car, but the best thing you can do is get to know the models you’re considering.

Taking some time to research cars before you take the plunge will ensure you’re getting a model you can rely on.

What does it mean for a car to be reliable?

A reliable car will usually mean that your vehicle doesn’t need any more than the typical maintenance, servicing and repairs.

All cars need some upkeep over time, be that replacing tyres, brakes, or scheduling in your MOT.

Reliable cars will usually only need these repairs, and will rarely have any extra issues if you keep up with the right care and maintenance.

By choosing a car that’s highly rated as reliable, you can expect only the occasional extra repair, with minimal other work needed.

This is ideal for keeping running costs low, and maintenance to a minimum.

Are used cars reliable?

You might feel like buying a car brand-new is the best way to make sure you’re getting something reliable, but used cars can be just as dependable.

If you do your research and know what to look for when buying then you should still find a used car reliable.

That’s especially true if you buy from a trusted seller that thoroughly checks over their cars before they’re sold, so you know you’re getting a good model.

Here at cinch, we recondition and thoroughly check over all of our models before we put them for sale on our site, so you know you can get a reliable used car. Our quality checks ensure our used cars are in top condition, and you'll have a warranty in place for any unexpected issues.

How to choose the most reliable car

There are a few things you can look for in a car to know if it’s likely to be reliable, and most of those come from listening to those who drive them.

Motorists who have experience with the car you’re eyeing will be able to give you the most accurate representation of how reliable it is.

1) Read car reviews

Reading reviews is one of the best things you can do before you buy a car, as it gives you an in-depth insight into the vehicle.

There are plenty of helpful reviews online from motoring journalists and owners of cars.

You can even find car review videos that are helpful with getting to grips with a vehicle and will give you a full rundown of the pros and cons.

Take a look at our video reviews on our YouTube channel.

2) Check the car forums

Online car forums are a great way to learn more about a prospective new car and ask for opinions.

Search around for forums dedicated to that specific manufacturer, type of car, or the model itself.

You’ll also be able to find groups on social media where motorists gather to share the good and the bad about their vehicles, and get advice.

Have a scroll through and you should be able to find common faults, repair work that regularly needs doing, and any other issues specific to that car.

3) Use consumer reports and surveys

There are many online surveys and reports that can give you an insight into the reliability of car models, with handy ratings and statistics that can help you make your choice.

A quick search will help you find the most reliable models on the market, so you’ll have some options ready to consider.

For extra peace of mind, you can opt into cinchCare which offers extras like a warranty, breakdown assistance and routine servicing.

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What should you check before buying a used car?

To make sure you’re getting the most reliable used car possible, it’s a good idea to do some extra checks.

This will give you peace of mind and confirm everything is in order with the car, so you can confidently drive away.

The DVLA offers a free check online that will give you some good basic information that will help you decide if this is likely to be a reliable car.

The check will show you when the MOT expires, the CO2 emissions, the manufacturer, and the year of registration.

It will also give key details about the car that will help you spot if anything is amiss.

The colour, engine size and manufacturer of the car will show up on this check, so you can see if everything lines up before you purchase.

If you're buying a used car from cinch, we will list information such as mileage, MOT expiry, service history, and other important details. If you're feeling unsure, you can always double-check this on the DVLA website using the registration plate for extra peace of mind.

There are other checks you can do online that require a small fee but will help you find out other details like whether the mileage is correct, or if the car has been reported as stolen.

Finding out these details ahead of time will ensure you can rely on your car in the future.

You might also want to give the car a thorough check or bring along someone who has the know-how to help you do this.

If you’re buying from a trusted and reputable seller then this extra step probably isn’t needed, but it’s something you should consider if you’re buying privately.

Used car reliability

You can easily buy a reliable used car if you know what you’re looking for and take the time to do some research.

Just because a car is pre-owned doesn’t automatically mean it’s more likely to go wrong, and you can get some really good deals when buying second-hand.

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