I have had 8 cars in the past 8 years so I have done my fair share of car buying and have picked up so many tips that I want to share with anyone looking to buy a used car.
Firstly research. Do you know what car you want? If not ask yourself what you need in a car. Do you need a large boot, 7 seats, fuel economy, fun? This way you can start to narrow your search down.
Budget: What is your budget? There is no point looking at Mercedes if you can only afford Dacia. If you’re looking online for your next car (which most people do these days) then you can set a minimum and maximum budget on most platforms like AutoTrader and eBay.
How far are you willing to travel? It’s great having almost every car for sale in the UK at your fingertips but are you really up for a 500 mile round trip to pick up your new motor. Also worth noting is the further you travel for a car, the more pressured you may feel to buying it. If you’ve travelled hours to view a car you may feel you’ve wasted your time if you don’t buy it. Likewise if you do walk away then that is time wasted.
Research some more: If you have seen a car or cars you want to go and look at, make sure you know what to look for. A quick google search of *make* *model* *year* common problems is the easiest way. Go onto forums and look at what people are saying. If there are common problems with a car you’ve seen, it isn’t the end of the world. Most cars have minor problems, most of which get fixed under warranty by the manufacturer. The main things to note is how much it will cost to fix. Make a note of any common faults in your phone or on a bit of paper to take with you when you go to view. You can check the service history to see if the necessary work has been done.
Whilst you’re googling common problems make sure you look at a car’s MOT history. This is a free service through .gov which isn’t always at the top of google: https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-history This will tell you when the vehicle had its MOTs, if it passed or failed, what it failed on and crucially the odometer reading at each MOT.
If you’re buying a car privately (not from a garage or dealership) I would recommend getting a HPI check on the vehicle. These normally cost around £20 but it’s money well spent if it stops you buying someone else’s write off or a car with outstanding finance still on it. If you bought a car that was stolen or had outstanding finance on it the police will seize the vehicle and you would not be compensated. HPI checks are a lot more thorough than the free .gov checks and check for everything from change of colour to whether a car has been imported.
It’s worth looking at running costs, again search the forums and see what MPG you can expect to pay, what is the annual VED (road tax) price, how much will it cost you to insure etc.
Once you’ve found a car and done all your research on it make sure you research where you’ve found it. This doesn’t apply if you’re buying a car privately. If it is a garage, main dealership, franchised dealership or independent dealership it will likely be on Google. Look at reviews from customers, look on websites like Yelp and Trustpilot and see what people are saying. If you find a bad review you need not be put off. See if the company being reviewed has responded to the review, things go wrong and you can’t please everyone. If there are more bad reviews than good then steer clear.
If you’re a first time car buyer then this part doesn’t apply to you but if you already have a car, do you know what you will do with it? Are you going to keep it, sell it privately, part exchange it or sell it to one of these online car buying services? Whatever you decide to do you need to get a rough idea of how much you can expect. This will save you time and also protect you from a salesman trying to rip you off. Know what your car is worth roughly so you can account for this when buying your new car.
The main thing is just to be savvy and aware, although it is getting increasingly harder for car dealers to rip you off it can still happen. Do plenty of research beforehand and follow your head when buying your next car.