Getting a good used car deal can be a pretty demanding process. Most UK motorists would agree that you need to do your homework, and do it well, to get the best deal.
The rewards and risks of buying a used car
Let’s face it, buying a used car can be a mixed blessing. The risks and rewards are many. You can buy the car of your dreams, or something a sneering scrap dealer may need to be persuaded to buy. You need to research your options for buying carefully.
A good used car, particularly a high-tier used car like a BMW, Mercedes, or other top brands, can be an invaluable asset. These cars are often well-maintained, and they’re sold in the semi-annual turnover process as their owners upgrade to a new model.
Browse online reviews from UK drivers, and you’ll get an excellent picture of the risks of buying a dud car. You’ll also see a very useful virtual shopping list of things to look out for, particularly in the area of car performance, faults, and other disasters.
Remember, your safety is at stake when you’re buying any car. A healthy degree of paranoia and some “applied cynicism” can save you a lot of grief.
Before you even think about buying
Sales professionals will tell you that the customer ultimately talks themselves in to buying anything. They just provide information and a bit of guidance. That’s very much a consideration when you’re buying a car, and you need to have some clear goals of your own to manage costs.
This is how you do that:
- A firm figure for your budget. You can always minimise your financial risk, and keep your purchase price to a comfortable level.
- A good idea of what you really want. Do you need a family taxi, a business car with good grunt and stamina, lots of space, etc.? Think about this, and think realistically, because you’ll be spending money on this issue.
- A car which is straightforward for servicing. You need to be able to source authentic parts and easy service for the sake of your cash flow and on-road safety. (Your mechanic can give you some useful tips here, often about specific models, too, which is very helpful.)
- A cutoff point for the age of the car. The best option is no more than 5 years old, absolute max, and preferably about 2-3 years. There are absolutely no excuses for not being able to services cars of this age at a sane price, particularly major brands.
Doing your homework
Some good news at this point: The process of finding a used car can be a lot simpler than you might expect. How you search, and what you search for, is critical. For example, a site like Autovolo.co.uk, offers a vast range of useful, model-specific information about new and used cars for sale. This more advanced way of researching your buying options will deliver real practical value and useful comparisons between your choices.
This is a six-step process:
- Search for your specific brand of preference. Search sites for BMW, for example. You should get a list of cars, models, etc.
- Compare your options for the same model(s). This is a checklist process, and you’ll soon see which deals stack up better than others.
- Search using clear parameters. Age, model, price bandwidths and other very handy options are available on reliable car sales websites. (You can also wonder why this information isn’t available on some sites. Lack of information is definitely not a good sign.)
- Location matters, a lot. Romantic and invigorating as scouring the UK for a used car may sound, where you buy is important. You need practical buying options. A nearby local dealership is usually best, and some local dealerships really are excellent, and you can save yourself a lot of time searching.
- Important: RAC-approved dealers: The RAC is the benchmark for dealers. These approved dealers are typically ultra-dependable, with a good reputation.
- Deals and extras can deliver real value. Sales spiel and promotional hype are optional, but actual cash value is always good.
You can get real value out of these additional buying options:
- Warranty. A good warranty is a good all-round added extra. It’s also reassuring to know that you have that coverage, in writing, if you need it. Check the warranty, though, and make sure you understand the terms.
- Car features and onboard systems. Some used car dealers use exactly the same sales techniques as new car dealers, offering optional extras. They can do this because these features for used cars are now relatively cheap compared to the mainstream new car market, and are good selling points.
The purchasing process
Now, you have enough information to inspect your choices. You have the information you need; now make sure that information is correct.
- All roadworthy and other documented information is available. (Why on Earth wouldn’t it be?)
- The general condition of car, engine, and systems. (Apply cynicism here.)
- A test drive should be offered, and the test drive performance should be flawless. (If not, forget it.)
Now you can talk business with the dealer. Good luck with your new car!
Suggested further reading: If you’d like to see some more useful information about everything to do with buying and selling cars in the UK, road tests, driving and more, check out Front Seat Driver for all the latest news.