Buying a used car from a dealer: Tips and guidance

Buying a new car is normally an exciting time. But sometimes it can be a little stressful as you try to figure out if the car you’ve got your heart set on is worth the amount you’ll be paying for it. And as a result, you may be looking for some advice on buying a used car. Here we’re giving you some tips and guidance on what to do when buying a used car from a dealership, what to look out for and how to negotiate price.


What to do when buying a used car

If you’re in the market for a used car, here are some things you may like to do in preparation:

1/ Do your research

You may already have a make/model in mind, but if not, do some research and make note of the styles/shapes of the vehicles that catch your eye.

2/ Set your budget

Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, set a budget so you have something to work with and a way to filter out cars that don’t fit the bill.

3/ Shop around

Now it’s time to hit the shops (or at least, the car dealership/online car sites!). It’s a good idea to take a look at the different options you have, such as visiting different dealerships, plus checking car sale sites such as Autotrader.

4/ Test drive

You may like the look of a car, but things can change during a test drive. Be sure to arrange an opportunity to drive your prospective car so you can experience it in all its glory.

5/ Don’t jump at the first car you see

Although it can be tempting, unless you really feel that a specific car is an opportunity you can’t miss out on, try not to jump at the first one you see. It can be beneficial to compare car costs across dealerships etc. to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

6/ Check it over

It’s sensible to check a car over before you purchase it - this is where it can come in really handy to know a mechanic so you can have someone undertake a car inspection! Try not to worry too much as most cars come with a warranty, and dealerships have a legal obligation to sell vehicles that are fit for purpose, of a satisfactory quality and as described.


What to look for when buying a used car

When you’re looking to purchase a car, there are a few things that you may like to check before committing to the sale.

• Mileage

When it comes to what to check when buying a used car, if you’re planning on your car being long-term, take into consideration the current mileage and how many miles you’re likely to add onto it.

• MOT and service

Did you know that you can check any car’s MOT history online for free (from 2005 onwards)? This is something you’ll probably want to do if you’re buying a used car in the UK. And although service histories aren’t legal requirements, they’re good to have to assure you that your new car has been looked after – so be sure to ask.

• Insurance and tax cost

Whilst your car may be affordable, it’s a good idea to check the costs of your insurance and tax too. And remember, vehicle tax is no longer carried over with the vehicle – you’ll need to switch your car insurance and tax before driving away with your new car.

• Does it have all required documentation?

One of the most important pieces of documentation to have is the V5C (otherwise known as the logbook). You can find specific government guidance about purchasing a vehicle without a log book here, but the general consensus is to avoid buying a vehicle that doesn’t have a V5C.

• General aesthetic

Make sure you inspect the car fully and take note of any bumps/marks. Many dealerships will undertake work on vehicles before they’re sold, so if you notice any scratches etc., make sure you flag them.

• Listen for abnormal noises

Also, make sure you listen out for any abnormal noises when you’re test driving the car (for example, a loud exhaust).

• Does everything work internally?

Be sure to check that the internal electrics work. Many dealerships will provide warranties, but sometimes these warranties won’t cover electrical work. So make sure you to check things like the interior lights, windows, radio and so on.


Tips for buying a used car

• Don’t be afraid to barter

Bartering can easily knock some cash off your car. Just make sure you go prepared. A top tip is to try and barter when you’re ready to purchase. This is because the salesperson may come back with, “I can apply some discount, but only if you buy today”!.

• Price match

If your dealership won’t budge but you’ve found a very similar deal elsewhere for less money, see if the dealership are willing to price match. And if not, you know where to go!

• Learn to negotiate

It’s not rare to put an offer on a vehicle under the condition that X, Y and Z are taken care of before the sale completes. So if you notice any scratches, or the interior needs a bit of work, start making a list.

• Play around with your location parameters

If you’re shopping online, you may set your parameters, for example, as no more than 30 miles from your home address. But what if the perfect car was just 32 miles out? It’s always worth checking just in case you miss out on a really great deal!

• Try and sell your car privately

This may not always work out if you’re looking for a quick sale and need the cash up front, but you can get up to 20% more as a private seller vs part-exchanging through a dealership.

• If you’re considering car finance, check out other options

If you’re being presented with finance options directly after test driving a car, it can be tempting to get carried away. But it’s sensible to go away and compare other options (such as low interest personal loans) where you may end up paying less overall. Just make sure you know your options.


Negotiating tips for buying a used car

Negotiating the price of something can cause some anxiety for many of us. But it’s a normal part of the car buying process and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of doing so! Here are some tips to help:

• Be positive.
• Be informed.
• Go prepared.
• Research the price of the vehicle at other dealerships.
• Start your bartering lower than your budget.
• Know what your current car is worth if you’re part-exchanging.
• Don’t disclose your top budget – keep your cards close to your chest.
• Remember you’re not obliged to stay if you aren’t getting anywhere – the power is in your hands.
• Don’t allow emotions to cloud your judgement.
• Shop around.


Tips on buying a car for a teenager

If you’re thinking about buying a car for your teenage son/daughter, here are a few car buying tips you may like to think about:

• Consider smaller cars

Smaller cars tend to be cheaper on insurance, so to keep costs low, keep the car small.

• Choose a cost-efficient car

Teenagers aren’t usually swimming in cash, so they probably won’t be able to afford cars that go through fuel quickly, or cost an arm and a leg to tax. Take a look at these cars that are perfect for new drivers.

• Avoid distracting gadgets

Whilst new/young drivers may be keen to get a cool car to show off to their mates, choosing a car with less distraction is probably a good idea for safer driving. You don’t need fancy gadgets for your first car, the main priority is a safe, affordable way to get around.

• Think about their main location

Car requirements may slightly differ depending on whether you’re in a city/the countryside. Be sure to keep in mind where they’ll be spending most of their time on the road when doing your research.

• Think about reliability

Whilst you may not want to spend a fortune on a brand new car, bear in mind how long they’re likely to keep the car and therefore how long it needs to last them (consider things like mileage and so on).

• Let them have some say

Let’s be honest, if you’re contributing towards a car for your son/daughter, or are even just in charge of making sure they don’t make any silly decisions, you’re going to be thinking practically. They, however, will probably be more concerned with how the car looks. Whilst this is probably the last thing on your mind as your child is just about to get behind the wheel, remember that it probably means a lot to them and try and meet half way if there are any disagreements!

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