Our ultimate guide to buying a used car

46 min read

With the second-hand market settling down, now’s the time to bag yourself a bargain


THERE are many things to think about before buying a new or used car. You may not even know what kind of car you’re looking for – such is the breadth of models now available.

You may be wondering if now is the right time to buy. But it’s coming up to four years since we first went into lockdown, when the new-car market ground to a halt and demand for used models went through the roof. New-car supply is finally back to where it should be, so there are loads of great models on the used-car market, whether you want to buy privately, from a dealer, or even via an online auction.

But the first thing to do is to pin down how much you want to spend. Over 90 per cent of new cars are bought on finance, and it’s a popular way to purchase a used model, too. That’s whether you’re using a specialist car-finance firm or a personal loan – you needn’t have the full amount available up front.

Once that’s sorted, you need to decide where or who you’d like to buy from. Franchised dealers offer peace of mind and after-sales service (plus warranties), but you’ll pay for the privilege. One advantage is that these outfits will often allow you to trade in your old car; use any part-exchange to your advantage, because this can be a great way of leveraging a better deal from the seller.

Auction sites can be the source of some seriously tempting second-hand bargains, but beware of hidden fees. You may also struggle to view the car before placing a bid, which can be problematic. Buying privately is frequently the best-value option, although you’ll have little comeback if anything goes wrong; cars like these are often sold as seen.

Taking a test drive is an essential part of any car-buying process. It’s important to start the car from cold – a warm engine can mask a variety of issues – and to take it on a varied route, both around town and at higher speeds. Try parking the car to make sure you’re comfortable with the controls, and test out all of the tech to check it’s working. This is important at the lower end of the market, but the warning applies to newer models as well.

Once you’ve decided on the right car for you and settled on a price, make sure all the terms are agreed in writing. You’ll need a receipt for any transaction, which should include the vehicle’s details, price, and terms of sale, as well as both the seller�

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