Even experts can benefit from used car buying tips. After all, buying a car is never easy. There are so many things to consider, so many points to take care of, so many potential pitfalls. If there’s one thing that’s even more complex than buying a car, however, it must be buying a used car.
Here, entirely different rules apply. You’ll need to be doubly careful, check everything twice and ideally bring along a second pair of eyes to your visit to the dealer. At the same time, times have never been better for second hand vehicles and more and more UK drivers are finding great used car deals. If you, too, are interest in a used car, here are the best buying tips to help you avoid costly mistakes.
The best used car tips from the experts
Wherever it may lead you – your journey towards a new car should start online. The web has not only made the buying process a lot more transparent. It has also reduced prices and exposed criminal dealers for what they really are.
Especially when it comes to used car buying tips, there are plenty of incredible resources. To help you get started, here are some of the best:
Money Saving Expert …
… have compiled a breathtakingly long guide covering almost every single aspect of the topic. Their article includes anything from which model to select to whether you should buy from a dealership or a private seller. Sometimes, the guide veers off topic a bit. We didn’t really need a lengthy discussion of diesels vs petrol cars, for example. Overall, however, this massive analysis is a great starting point.
Honest John’s used car buying tips …
… are an excellent companion to those from MSE. They feature subjects you won’t find anywhere else. The articles includes a truly intriguing analysis of imported vehicles, for example, as well as suggestions for buying at auctions or from friends and families. These ‘exclusives’ make this a particularly valuable source of information.
For an entirely different, far more personal take on the topic …
… see The Art of Manliness’s ‘How to buy a used car’. In it, the author has to find a new car quickly and describes the considerations that went through his head. Although written from an American perspective, this guide is useful if you still have a few basic questions to deal with.
Research, research, research
What is a realistic price from a private party? What’s a truly great deal at a car dealership? What does it mean when an ad claims that a vehicle is in excellent condition?
If you’re looking to buy a car, you’ll need to do some research on pricing. In the USA, web sites such as Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds provide recent car data. In the UK, Parkers is by far the best platform to obtain these facts.
Similar to Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book, the Parkers team visit dealers around the UK at their car lot (they may also just give them a call) and ask them about their recent prices. Every little detail of a transaction is recorded, from the mileage and the odometer reading to the condition of the car.
As a result, the data provided by Parkers is extremely up to date. Although Parkers can only estimate private party prices, these are usually surprisingly reliable, too. So next time you’re unsure whether you have a great deal in front of you or not – just consult their website to find out.
Used Car Tips from Concept Car Credit
On top of these major sites, you can also use our blog to find answers to some of your most urgent questions. Over the years, we’ve built a big archive of articles intended to assist you with your decisions – and many include a wealth of used car buying tips.
Topics have included the most reliable used cars , when to replace your old car, a comprehensive car maintenance checklist, the ins and outs of vehicle inspection for used cars, a guide to car depreciation, and whether to part exchange your car or not.
Alternatively, you can simply keep reading. Ladies and gentlemen, we now present to you 13 of the very best use car buying tips.
Buying tips for a used car #1: Avoid the three Cs
We really don’t want to scare you, because outright fraud has become rare on the UK used car market. And yet, you should at least be aware of the three Cs that can turn buying a used car into a nightmare:
- Clocking: Changing the odometer reading to suggest a lower mileage.
- Cloning: Changing the number plate to make you believe you’re buying a different – less old – vehicle.
- Cut and Shut: Welding together different older parts into a brand-new looking car.
These tactics may be rare, but they’re still around. By turning towards a respectable dealer instead of buying car from a private seller, many of these issues can be avoided.
Buying tips for a used car #2: Create a target list
By focussing too much on a single model, you are reducing your chances of a favourable deal. After all, every good dealer will sense your preferences and put them to their advantage. But there’s another good reason for being less picky: There are many excellent cars on the market, which are excellent, but simply not particularly popular. This can be good for you, since you can get great value for your money. Create a list of at least three models from different brands and try to get a deal for one of them.
Buying tips for a used car #3: Determine your budget
Creating a target list of suitable models and determining your budget should go hand in hand. After all, it may be romantic to dream of buying a Rolls Royce or Porsche, but it’s not particularly useful if you have a bad credit rating. When determining how much money you can spend, you should not never only look at the retail price of the car. Make sure to take insurance costs, potential repairs and any other fees into consideration as well.
Buying tips for a used car #4: Check the dealer
Dealers don’t hold a very high reputation. That’s unfair, since most of them truly want to sell you the best possible car at a reasonable price. This notwithstanding, it can’t be denied that a few black sheep have seriously dented the entire industry’s image.
When entering into negotiations, you’re never merely buying a car, you’re buying a relationship with a seller. Simply by speaking to your salesperson, you can learn a lot about their way of doing business and about how much they are willing to meet your demands.
Buying tips for a used car #5: Check the car
Needless to say, inspecting the vehicle is the most important part of every used car deal. There are many different things to inspect and we’ve written about this at length in a previous blog post. Whatever you do, take your time and don’t rush in – impulse purchases are rarely a good basis.
It can pay off to take your own mechanic to the car lot, provided the dealer allows this. Organisations such as the AA or the RAC also have their own experts and will offer to accompany you to the dealership. This will obviously create additional costs. But the eyes of an experienced mechanic do usually see more than yours.
Buying tips for a used car #6: Test-drive the car
Even the most thorough inspection is worth little without a short test drive. This is not so much about detecting any faults, even though a test drive can obviously helpful in that regard, too. Rather, it is about whether or not you really enjoy driving the car and could imagine spending several years with it.
If you would like to know more about how to test drive a car, Autotrader has an insightful article on the topic.
Buying tips for a used car #7: Ideally, buy 1 & 3 year old cars
In the life cycle of every model, there are a few important dates. It is generally considered ideal to sell a car off around its fifth birthday. And after ten years, depreciation comes to a halt and repairs start piling up.
Since depreciation is steepest during the first year, buying a vehicle after 12 months is a great option. You’re essentially getting an almost brand new car at a massive rebate. If you’re willing to wait a little longer, three years is another excellent point for buying a car. By this time, it has depreciated even more and will usually still be in an excellent condition.
Buying tips for a used car #8: Buy at the right time
Few car buyers consider that timing their visit to the dealer can make a significant difference. Curiously enough, when you buy is almost as important as which car you buy.
For one, dealers receive their bonuses on a quarterly basis. If they still have plenty of vehicles standing on their car lot at the end of either March, June, September or December, they will thus try to sell these off in time in order to cash in. This presents you with an opportunity for an excellent deal.
Secondly, the seasons obviously also play a role in the pricing process. Most cars by far are sold in the Summer time. This, after all, is when most families leave on holiday. Contrarily, buying a car is cheaper in the Winter. Applying this knowledge can save you a lot of money.
Buying tips for a used car #9: Buy at the right place
You would expect there to be price differences between different dealers. What is truly surprising, however, is the price differential between different parts of the UK.
The Telegraph even refers to this as a North-South divide in used car prices. It won’t always be significant enough to make a long journey worth its while. But in select cases, it just may: “Is there any point in heading north to buy a car that will save you a few bob? For the £400 you might save on a small family hatchback, probably not. But in the case of an SUV that CAP says could be £5,393 cheaper in Wales compared with London, you would be crazy not to consider such a saving.”
Buying tips for a used car #10: Don’t Blindly Get a Warranty
Once you buy a used car, its regular warranty will most likely have expired. Which means that you will need to buy an extended warranty if you want to protect yourself from expensive future repairs. Unfortunately, according to consumer organisation Which?, an extended warranty is not all its may seem to be:
“It’s difficult to justify the cost of even the cheapest used car warranty when you consider the endless exclusions, pricey premiums and low average expense of yearly repairs. A car in the garage is already a stressful time and arguing over what constitutes wear and tear with your warranty provider to try and get your garage costs reimbursed is an extra headache you could do without. We’d recommend setting money aside each year to cover any repairs, but if you’re intent on getting a warranty consider a paying for it when you buy your car. These manufacturer extended warranties tend to have fewer exclusions than their third-party rivals.”
Buying tips for a used car #11: Prioritise Insurance
It will come down to personal taste whether you really want to splurge on a warranty. Things are different when it comes to car insurance, however. This one’s absolutely essential. After all, you already need to protect yourself against an accident from your way home from the car lot. Don’t delay this, make it a priority.
The good thing is that car insurance does not need to cost the world. Compare the Market, for example, offers a useful comparison tool, which allows you to find the insurance company that’s best for you.
Buying tips for a used car #12: Get Extras Later
One of the most valuable pieces of advice we can give you is to get extras later. It goes without saying that every car feels better with a little luxury. But by adding even just a few small items, costs can quickly pile up. This way, what looked like a great deal at first can suddenly turn into a costly investment.
Instead, get the most stripped down version of a model you can find. Drive it for some time and see if you can really handle the monthly payments. Then, one by one, start adding truly useful extras to your car.
Buying tips for a used car #13: Financing
Getting a car loan is an essential for all car buyers. This is true whether you’re buying from a private party or an official dealer. The real trick is to find a blend between a decent APR and monthly payments that you can sustain for the entire duration of the loan.
If you intend to buy a car from a private party, a credit union may probably be best in terms of financing. Their APRs usually won’t exceed a fair percentage rate and their terms and conditions tend to be more borrower-oriented.
In most other cases, it’s best to secure your car loan directly with the dealership. Dealers may not have the best of reputations. But they have improved a lot over the years and can now offer financing at excellent rates. Plus, it makes things a lot easier to not have to go through a bank when it comes to the financial side of things.