I’m really rather interested in just what you check on a used car before you buy it.

I know that some people go through all sorts of weird procedures: two and a half test drives, is there an 'r' in the month, that sort of thing. I ask because I’ve been having a slight debate with someone over the relevance of an MOT.

Personally, I think it is a nice thing to see; it's very reassuring and makes getting the old heap you’ve bought easier and cheaper to get home. Otherwise the MOT is only proof that on the day it was ramped and stamped, there wasn’t anything too amiss. Now, that could have been 11 months previously. So before I buy, I do think that a garage-fresh MOT is at least a help.

Then again, rules are there to be broken, or at the very least ignored. The last car I bought a few months back did have a fresh ticket for me. The one before that certainly didn’t. It was a 'take it or leave it' scenario, which was fine. Over the years I’ve come to accept that rather a lot of used car buying is down to luck. So the thing I mainly do is cross my fingers.

I don’t really, but I do believe that checking a used car is 90 per cent common sense with maybe a 10 per cent smattering of luck. The common sense part is looking at what you are presented with: history, same tyres on the same axle and the sort of person you are buying from.

Being a snob really is a tremendous help and has served me very well over all the years I’ve been buying marginal cars. You don’t have to like the person, but you do have to believe in what they say about their pride and joy. 

I haven’t ever stuck a stethoscope on the block, sucked on the exhaust or even kicked a tyre. You really don’t have to. The thing is, though, if you don’t pay attention to all that smoke, that grinding sound, or the fact that the offside rear door is missing, then you deserve everything you’ve bought.

So what do you check on a used car?