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How to update your new secondhand car

Carlton Boyce / 01 June 2018 ( 01 September 2017 )

If you’ve just bought a new-to-you second-hand car, here’s how to make it even more special.

A man cleans a mark from his new secondhand car

Buying secondhand is usually the financially savvy choice when it’s time to replace your old car, and once you’ve waded through the usual hurdles and finally chosen the one that best suits your needs, it’s time to make your “brand new used car" (with thanks to Bruce Springsteen for his wonderfully evocative take on buying and owning used cars) your very own. 

1. Sift through your old junk 

While almost of all of us will just transfer our junk from our old car into our new one, now might be the time to sift through it and make sure that you really do need that frayed tow rope and half-empty can of deicer.

While there are a few things that you really should carry, there are probably a lot of things you needn’t bother lugging around. Removing them will free up precious space and might even help improve your car’s fuel consumption as your car will be a little bit lighter.

One important point to note is that your new car may not use the same light bulbs as your old one, so it’s worth checking that your kit of spares includes the appropriate part numbers. If you’re not sure, just go to your nearest car accessory shop or motor factor and they’ll happily check for you.

When you’ve winnowed it down, a boot tidy will keep it all together, stop it flying around if you have an accident, and keep you disciplined by limiting the space you’ve got available.

2. Buy a dashcam

We’ve banged on about the advantages of having a dashcam for ages, so why not take the opportunity to finally buy one for your new car?

Prices start at about £25 for a basic model all the way up to £250 and more for a top-of-the-range one with all the bells and whistles.

My recommendation would be something from the bottom to middle of the market, cross-checking owners’ reviews on websites like Amazon to make sure that the marketing blurb isn’t just hype… 

4 reasons to buy a second hand car

3. Decent floor mats

While a lot of floor mats claim to be universal, you’ll almost always be better off splashing out a few more pounds on something that is tailored to fit your car.

Motoring accessory shops like Halfords and Euro Car Parts can supply a set of four for around £50, which is a small price to pay for something that will enhance your car’s interior while protecting its future value by preventing damage to the carpets.

If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his book How to Become a Motoring Journalist - available on the Saga Bookshop.

4. New wiper blades

If your new car’s wipers have seen better days – and if they’re juddering, smearing or missing parts of the windscreen then they definitely have -  then a set of two new blades should cost you less than £20.

I source mine from a car factors rather than a car accessory shop as they’re usually much cheaper; I paid under £10 for a pair of top-quality Bosch wiper blades only last month – and picked up a 5lt container of concentrated screenwash for under a fiver. 

A petrol station or motorway services will charge you significantly more than that, so it’s worth doing now rather than being forced to pay over-the-odds when you’re midway through a journey and struggling to see clearly… 

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5. Detailing fluid

I keep a small bottle of ‘detailing fluid’ in my glovebox, along with a small microfibre cloth, to remove bird poop as soon as it happens. Bird poop can be highly corrosive and can irrevocably stain your car’s paintwork within days, if not hours, if it’s left.

It’s not expensive and you should have change from a tenner. Brands such as Autoglym and Meguiars are well-trusted and widely available from the usual places.

6. Do a mini-service

It’s worth checking the obvious stuff before you use your new car in earnest. There’s probably no need to do anything too involved but I always make a point of checking the tyre pressures, as well as the oil, screenwash and coolant levels.

None of this is difficult, and we’ve put a handy guide here to help you!

Bonus tip: Remembering your car’s MOT anniversary is hard enough when you’ve owned it for years - and almost impossible if it’s one you’ve just bought. 

So, why not set a reminder via the GOV.UK website? Just click this link and enter your car’s registration number. You’ll then receive an email or text message (you can choose which) a month before your MOT expires and another two weeks before it runs out if you haven’t yet renewed it. 

If you’re clever, you’ll synchronise your car’s annual service with its MOT; not only will you avoid the need to remember two different dates but many garages offer discounted MOTs if they service the car at the same time…

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.