10 Top Tips for buying Used Cars
If you choose to buy a used car the obvious benefits can include making significant savings without having to compromise too much on quality. Whether you’re after a dream machine or a cheap run-around to get you from A to B, there’s plenty of choice on the second-hand market. However, the Citizens Advice and Trading Standards claims second-hand cars are one of the most protested issues; complaints are often about a fault, but sometimes the problems are so bad the car is scrapped. With murky histories and hard-nosed salesmen, purchasing a used car can be a minefield to a potential buyer. Here are our top tips to minimise the chance of any nasty surprises.
Timing is key
One way to reduce costs is to buy at the right time. Dealers have targets to meet and bonuses to compete for. These are usually based on quarterly sales at the end of March, June, September and December. They need to shift cars, so will be more willing to negotiate and offer appealing finance packages at the end of these months. Private sellers don’t have set targets, so keep an eye on their prices a few months before you actually buy – if they’re decreasing, you may want to wait. Increasing and it’s sensible to buy sooner.
Prioritise what you need, not what you want
Before you begin perusing for the ‘one’, consider realistically what you really need from a car. There’s no point buying a two-seater convertible if you’re about to start a family. Ask specific questions to boost decision-making such as ‘what are my essential requirements?’ and ‘will I be using it for short drives or longer motorway journeys?’ Fuel choice can also make a big difference to running costs, so consider whether you need diesel or petrol.
Shop around and negotiate
Ask dealers for their best price on your second-hand car of choice. Make a note of the best price, and then ask others to beat it. You can expand your radius, if you’re happy to travel to find the lowest price. Never sign on the day- walk away and you will be pleasantly surprised with the number of sales calls you receive offering even better discounts than discussed previously.
Inspect the vehicle thoroughly
As the old saying goes, it’s not enough to go by good looks alone and this is most certainly the case when buying a used car. You need to look at everything, from the seatbelts, headlights to the paintwork and tyres. Check the car’s mileage. The average covered is around 10,000 miles a year, so if the odometer’s figure seems strangely out considering age, ask why. Service history is crucial as you don’t want to purchase a car which may be subject to immediate repairs. Also check for any signs of poor repair and oil or water leaks in the engine which could lead to serious problems.
Don’t skip the test-drive
Test driving a second hand car is imperative to ensure you’re comfortable driving the vehicle and that you don’t notice any red flags when out on the road. Try different routes and include the motorway to check how the car feels whilst driving it. Check the brakes and clutch function smoothly and effectively, plus experiment with manoeuvres such as a three-point turn and an emergency stop to check steering and brakes.
Check for outstanding finance
Buying, leasing or hiring a car on finance is increasing in popularity. This means many vehicles on the road are actually owned by finance providers until their customers pay off the finance agreement in full. Make sure you carry out a Car Data Check because if you buy from someone who’s not paid off their finance agreement, the provider could retrieve the car and leave you without a car and out of pocket. Most reputable dealers carry out a vehicle check, but we’d advise you to still liaise with them to ask whether it’s been done on your visit.
Protect your rights
Remember that if you choose to buy through a private sale it is also your responsibility to check the car’s condition and history, and you have far fewer rights if something goes wrong. A private seller must give an accurate description, but it can be hard to prove if you’ve been duped – so keep copies of the original advert. Purchasing a used car warranty can be excellent way to protect yourself from expensive incidents you may experience once you’ve actually bought your vehicle. Many warranties can be bought direct as well – another bonus as it eliminates additional costs which may incur if buying through another party.
In this case, eBay may not be the best option…
You can buy anything online these days, but is buying a car this way worth the risk? Lots of people seem to think so and eBay is one of the most popular sites for used car purchases. Ensure you’ve done all the necessary checks before you place a bid, as if you pay using PayPal its purchase protection does not apply to cars – and neither does eBay’s own buyer protection. So if anything goes wrong, you cannot turn to either to sort it out.
… although considering your credit card could be wise
Paying even a penny towards your car by credit card, means you get effective, additional protection, as you’re then covered by Section 75. Providing the total cost of the car you’re buying is between £100 and £30,000, paying anything towards it by credit card means the card company is equally as liable as the dealer if anything goes wrong with your vehicle.
Be thorough with paperwork
When you buy a used car check you have all the necessary documents before paying. Most important is the Logbook, or V5C, which proves you are the keeper of the vehicle. It should list you as the registered keeper, though you may not be the owner if the car has been bought on finance. The car’s servicing booklet is essential to check when the car was last serviced, as well as what’s been repaired/replaced. Manuals, spares such as wheels, keys and the sales contract should also be included.
Whether or not you decide to purchase the used car you are considering, it’s imperative to make sure you are well-informed and have researched the market before buying. The more aware you are of common scams and sneaky sales tactics, the less likely you are to be left out of pocket or with a vehicle that won’t stand the test of time.