Buying a Used Car

There are so many advantages in buying a used car rather than a new one. Lower prices and the fact that any glitches will have already been sorted to name but two.

Why not buy a new car?

Obviously used cars are cheaper. They also represent better value for money. The value of a car depreciates significantly as soon as you drive it away from the dealer and will continue to drop in value noticeably until the car is three years old. Depending on the make and model, the price of a  3 year old car can be as much as 30-55% lower than its price when new.

After 3 years the price decline won’t be so steep but you can still get really good value for money. After 5 years you may get less value for money as reliability problems may occur and running and repair costs increase.

Used or nearly new?

A nearly new car is usually a car that is less than a year old – maybe 6 months and one which has done less than 10,000 miles. After that you really need to say that the car is used. “Used” covers everything from a few months to a few decades.

Buying from a dealer or privately

Most used cars these days are sold by dealers (whether a main dealer or a small lot at the side of the road). Fewer cars today are sold by private individuals than was the case maybe 10 or 20 years ago. If you look in Autotrader or Exchange & Mart the vast majority of vehicles are sold by dealers.

Before you head off to a dealer

It’s really important to prepare before you commit to buying a vehicle. Don’t go to the dealer with the expectation of maybe making an impulse buy. In the case of used cars, there are a few things you should do before you enter the doors of the dealership.

  1. Set a limit on your budget. How much can you afford and how much do you want to spend? You should also research the kind of car you are looking at and the market costs for a car of the age/ mileage you are considering. Bear in mind that the car you choose will have implications regarding how much you pay on servicing, repairs, tax and fuel in the future. Getting all of this straight first will protect you from spending more than you can afford or want to pay.

2. Research common faults with the model of car you are looking at. Look at reviews online which will have they will have common fault lists and even stats on repair bills and much more. The key is to know the model inside and out before even beginning to look at a car. It is generally not advised to go to a dealer without a clear idea of the car you want.

3. Research the trim and option levels for the make and model you are looking at. be aware also that the particular used car in the showroom may have some extras that are not in the specification. If you are going to buy a used car you should be aware of which variant has the features you want. Autotrader or Parkers Guide will state the entire model range, trim levels as they change with certain years.

4. Another top tip is to look and see if the car has a tow bar. This may not seem like an important factor but a car that has done a lot of towing is likely to be far more worn out. The clutch and gearbox will have taken a lot more punishment as will the suspension. It might not be a deciding factor, but it’ll help you find out more about the car. A car that has towed a caravan once a year may be fine, but towing a heavy trailer every week may not be.

What to ask when buying a used car

There are many you can should when you are looking at a used car. Many can actually be sorted out before you visit. Ask a few questions over the phone before going to see the car to save time and effort. It is also good to show the seller you are know what you are talking about.

Ask how many owners the car has had. It should be something included in the paperwork, but it’s a good question to ask to get an idea about the car including the mileage.

Ask what sort of driving the car is used for. It is useful to know if the car has been used for simple commuting, the school run or perhaps lugging handyman tools and equipment around all day. This question can include what sort of journeys it is used for. Motorway miles are less hard on a car than lots of short trips. Was it a family’s main car or just used as a run around?

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