Exciting and daunting at the same time
There are so many cars out there, that homing in on the right one can take a lot of legwork.
However, if you choose badly you could hate your car – which could bankrupt you – but if you buy well your life will be transformed for the better.
There are loads of considerations when buying a car, and loads of makes and models. Whatever you buy, the chances are it’ll be a compact hatchback with a small engine. Exactly what you buy will at least in part be dictated by the insurance
Petrol or Diesel
The latter cost more and tend to be less reliable, but they’re more economical. Most small cars have a petrol engine though.
Automatic or Manual
Self-shifting gears can be a real bonus with today’s traffic levels, but such cars are less economical and most small cars are manuals.
Don’t be put off by a high-mileage car if it’s been cared for. If it’s had one owner and comes with a full history, it may still be a very good buy.
Where to buy?
Generally cheapest, but beware of optimistic pricing and there’s no warranty.
Usually have newer cars in stock, which will often be better cared for and have lower mileages. They also charge the most, in general.
Usually offer the same facilities as a franchised dealer, but the cars tend to be higher mileage. Still a good bet though.
Offer low prices as they sell lots of cars and make a small profit on each Tend to focus on mainstream cars only, but there’s usually plenty of choice.
The cheapest option, but it’s easy to buy a heap if you’re not careful. Buy here with caution as there is likely to be very little comeback in the event of problems.
Some dealers masquerade as private sellers and work from home. When you phone, ask about ‘the car for sale’. If they need clarification, they’ve dearly got several vehicles up for grabs. A few simple rules can save you a lot of bother:
- Don’t buy from someone who gives only a mobile number; they’ll be untraceable if something goes wrong.
- If a specific time is given for calls to be made, the seller is probably using a public phone box. Phone outside the specified time and see who answers.
- Insist on visiting the seller’s house to inspect the car; ensure this is at the address on the registration document.
- Weigh up how well kept the owner is along with their house and garden. If they take no care of themselves or where they live, it’s unlikely they’ll have cherished their car.
- Private sellers must describe the car honestly and accurately. But that’s the only requirement and you have no redress.
- Getting a refund or sorting a problem will be difficult, so check the car thoroughly before buying.
- Pay by banker’s draft, as cash offers no redress. A genuine seller will be OK with this.
Buying from a dealer
- Pay by credit or debit card, as it brings extra legal protection from the card company. A banker’s draft is still a good way to pay, too.
- Dealers have a duty to describe the car accurately and it must meet a standard expected of a car of its age, mileage, price and condition. If it doesn’t, you have protection under the Sale of Goods Act for the dealer to sort the problem, provide an alternative car or refund your money.
How to buy a used car
Don’t forget the test drive
Never buy a car without test driving it first. Start the car from cold, and make sure it ticks over happily. Let it warm up then take it for a run so you can check everything – make sure you’re insured though. While you’re driving, check for a smoky exhaust, ensure the engine pulls cleanly and also feel for pulling to one side under braking. Other issues could include a worn clutch (feel for slipping) and listen for any untoward noises – rattles, clonks or whining – that don’t sound right.