Car Buying Tips

Buying a used car, or a nearly new car, can result in huge savings compared to buying brand new. Unless you’ve got very specific needs, there’s usually a ready supply of suitable, good quality cars. And you can drive away as soon as the deal is done.

What do you need from a used car?

Before you start your search, it’s worth pinning down your exact requirements, whether it’s a large boot or four-wheel-drive. We recommend you write a list that prioritises what you want and need a car to do – and that should include an idea of how much you’re willing (and able) to pay.

Consider running costs

Buying used means you can normally avoid the steepest loss in a car’s value through depreciation, which happens in the first few years. However, as a car gets older and the warranty elapses (they typically last three to five years, although some seven-year warranties are available), maintenance often becomes more intensive and expensive. So is worth factoring in.

Check a car’s history

Doing some simple checks will reduce your chances of buying a car that’s being sold illegally or has had major repairs. You can also find out if the current owner still owes money on the car.

It doesn’t take long or cost much. You should consider doing this no matter who you buy from. Ask the seller for the car’s: registration number, MOT test number, mileage, make and model. You can check the car’s details with the DVLA or get a private history check.

Inspect the car and take a test drive

You should arrange to view the car in daylight, preferably when it’s dry - it’s harder to spot damage to the car if it’s wet. You should definitely take the car for a test drive. You’ll need to make sure you’re insured to do this. If you have your own car insurance, check with your insurance company to see if you can drive someone else’s car. If you don’t have insurance, a trader or private seller’s insurance might cover you - you’ll need to ask them.

Haggle hard!

If you decide to buy after checking and test-driving the car, it's time to negotiate a price. Look for things that could throw up costs in the near future - such as a short MOT or worn tyres - and use these as bargaining points.

It's worth bearing in mind that car tax is no longer transferable between owners, so you'll need to pay for at least six month's tax before you drive away – although some dealers may offer to pay this to sweeten the deal.

Car to trade in?

If you’re buying from a dealer, you may decide to trade in your current car. However, you’re unlikely to get as much for it as you would if you sold it privately.

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