Mike Brewer's used car buying guide

Mike Brewer knows a thing or two about buying used cars. He has spent most of his 43 years purchasing and selling motors and he has transferred his wheeling-dealing skills to numerous small screen shows.

The years of experience have resulted in a sharp eye for the minor details, which can mean the difference between an absolute bargain and a complete lemon.

Because Mike is an all-round good egg (and a new series of his new show Wheeler Dealers is starting soon) he has compiled a hit list of essential checks and observations everyone should make when buying a used car.

"Buying a car privately can be great fun – tracking down the car you want, doing a deal with the owner – but it can be risky. You need to have your wits about you," says Mike.

"Follow my 14-point plan below and you will be the happy owner of a great used car".

1. Always run a HPI (Hire Purchase Information) check to see if there is any outstanding finance or accident damage to the car. You can do this online or many companies offer a SMS text service so you can carry it out while viewing the car.

2. Study all the documentation very carefully.

3. Is the vendor's name on the registration document? If not, ask them why not?

4. Is the chassis number on the car and the registration document the same?

5. Make sure the numbers on the registration document and those etched on the windows match.

6. Check the number alignment on the mileometer if the numbers are uneven "clocking" could have taken place and the car is likely to have covered many more miles than it says.

7. Look for any burred screws around the dashboard, A sure sign the instrument panel has been tampered with.

8. Check the driver's seat and carpet for signs of excess wear especially if the car shows a low mileage.

9. Look for signs of any uneven tyre wear and don't forget to check the spare.

10. Check the front of the car for stone chips, especially if the mileometer is reading low mileage.

11. Focus on a reflection in the paintwork. A hazy reflection can indicate that filler has been used and the car is likely to have been involved in an accident.

12. Beware of the car that's parked close to a wall or another vehicle, this may have been done to conceal damage to the bodywork.

13. Check door shut gaps and panels; they should be the same all round.

14. Look at window rubbers for signs of over spray and in the door shuts.

"I'd always advise people to take a knowledgeable friend with them to help with the inspection, but whatever you do take your time looking over the car," says Mike.

"Look closely at all the paintwork and the panels, checking for signs of damage or rust. And like I mentioned before, check the number plates and any window etchings to make sure everything matches.

"Look at the condition of the interior and make sure everything works, and check under the bonnet. Pull the dipstick out and look at the oil – does it look fresh? Open the oil filler cap too – any creamy gunge in there (we call it 'mayonnaise') could mean a blown head gasket."

And one final word of advice from Mike, "Always take the car for a test drive and ignore any spiel from the seller while you do this. Stretch it out a bit and make sure you look, listen and feel for anything that isn't right."

Catch the brand new series of Wheeler Dealers, Tuesdays at 9pm on Discovery Channel