Buying a used car makes financial sense if you are on a tight budget, however, getting the right one is not easy at all. There are many potential pitfalls that can result in you driving home with a lemon if you are not careful. If you choose to go down the second-hand route then there are a number of things to look out for to help you spot whether the car you are considering buying has been in an accident. You could obtain a vehicle history report but that can take time and money. What’s more, a clean report isn’t always a guarantee that the vehicle’s history is actually untarnished. The seller sure is not going to reveal all either — he is there to make a few dirhams off you. So, here are a few tips to help you save some dosh and a lot of potential trouble:

1: Dodgy paint job

A good way to tell if a certain car has been involved in an accident is to check for signs that it has been repainted and the way to do that is to look at the reflection of the paint. The surface may look clear and smooth when viewed straight on, but sit by the side of the car and you may spot some unevenness. If you do, there’s a good chance there was some body repair done. Walk around the car and to see if the colour on all the panels matches — if it doesn’t then you know some patch work has been done to the car.

2: Misaligned panels

When the doors, boot and bonnet are closed they ought to be perfectly flush with other panels. If the alignment isn’t right, it could be a sign that the car has been involved in a smash. Similarly, the front and rear bumper should fit straight but if you notice it’s at a slight angle, chances are high that it’s had a shunt.

3: Check the tyres

Get on your hands and knees and give the tyres a good feel. If the tread seems uneven, it could be because of a misaligned wheel possibly caused by damage to the chassis. While you are down there it’d be a good idea to have a good look at the underbody and the wheel wells – if you see a fresh application of a rubberised undercoat it could be because of recent structural repairs and this was a quick way to cover that up.

4: Damp smells

If you notice that the dash light, or the power windows or indeed other electronical equipment doesn’t seem to be working right, it could be a sign of flood damage. Too many air fresheners in the cabin should sound the alarm bells – is the owner trying to cover up any damp smells caused by water damage?

5: Cracked windshield

Check the windshield for cracks – if there is even a tiny one, it could be a sign that the car has been in a prang. Even if it hasn’t, this should be replaced immediately — at the seller’s expense. Don’t even use that as a bargaining tool and walk away from the deal if necessary.

6: Replaced lights

Headlights turn hazy over time and get a yellowish tint. If one looks clear and the other doesn’t, chances are high that it’s been replaced. Why? It might have been, yep - smashed. Also the headlights should be aligned properly, if they’re not then they’ve been replaced. Badly. Open the bonnet and inspect the front end for signs of damage.

7: Strange sounds

Never buy a car without driving it and when you are behind the wheel, listen out for any strange sounds such as a cyclic squealing from the area of a wheel; this may indicate a wheel bearing or axle bearing is damaged and failing. Hear any tapping, knocking or a metal to metal slap from the engine? That might be a damaged piston. Does the transmission shift smoothly? Does the steering make any funny noises at full lock? Do the brakes grind? Are the electrical systems in the car OK? If any of these arouse suspicion, then use it to your advantage to get the best deal. If the car requires way too much work, you might want to walk away and hit those classifieds again.