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Used Car Buyers Guide

Tips for buying a used car

Car buying advice

With cars dropping by an average of 40% in value during their first year of ownership, buying a used version is great way of saving some money. But being thrifty requires more than opting for a pre-owned car, and you need to avoid certain pitfalls that could transform your purchase into a money pit.

Before you go in search for your next car, have a read of the following guidance so you can drive a hard bargain.

What to consider when budgeting

Knowing how much you can spend on a car helps you to avoid getting carried away and choosing the one that will look great on your driveway. Rather than getting a figure in your mind for the initial cost of the vehicle itself, think about how much you can afford to spend over the course of a year. Fuel, parking permits, tax, insurance, MOTs and servicing costs have to be paid throughout the ownership and it’s worth factoring these in to avoid spending more than you anticipated.

Researching the different finance deals available can help you to budget. These can be more costly in the long run, but they do make it easier to control your budget by paying manageable amounts each month.

How to decide on a make and model

Thinking with your head and not your heart is essential when sifting out a bargain car. It needs to fit in with your lifestyle and your budget. You may like the idea of driving a stylish sports car but if you need a car for the school run this is probably less than ideal. Write down the five journeys you make most often and use of this list to narrow your search to body type i.e. hatchback, supermini, SUV etc.

Once you have a body type in mind, do your research on the different car brands and find out which ones are known for excelling in that type of model. You will find that some makes are better for making cars that are good for fuel-economy while others are more reliable and this will help to concentrate your search.

How to successfully view cars

Starting your search online gives you a good idea about which cars are available locally. It’s worth staying local to avoid spending heaps of money on petrol simply going to viewings.

Much like your weekly food shop, you need a list so you can stay focused during any viewings and test drives. Include things to look out for like the tyre tread, if the locks are working correctly and whether there are different shades of paint on the body. Inconsistency in the paintwork and any panels indicates that it has been repaired.

Always find out when the cam belt, antifreeze and brake fluid were replaced. These should be in time with the manufacturer’s recommendations, and if they need replacing then think about whether you have the space in your budget. You should also check that - it if it has locking wheel nuts (a device that helps to prevent your wheels from being stolen), that the adaptors are present. You will need this adaptor when it comes to changing your tyres.

During a test drive, you need to do more than simply get a feel for its drive. Check that the brakes work well without making any odd noises, make sure the steering wheel is steady and not vibrating, and check that all warning lights work correctly.

What documents to check

All cars come with documents to confirm their road worthiness and legal ownership history. Check these thoroughly before you buy as it will be easier to sell it in the future if all of these papers are present and correct. These include:

• Registration document - Otherwise known as the V5C, this provides details of the person who is registered to tax the car (not necessarily the owner). It also includes the car’s physical details such as colour and engine size. Make sure it is watermarked by DVLA and that the seller’s name corresponds with the one on the document. If there are any disparities, it could mean that the car has been cloned with the number plate of an almost identical car. If you buy a cloned car, you could lose both the car and the money you spent in purchasing it.
• Service history – Always check that the service history, the handbook and (if they are available) the MOT certificates correspond to the DVLA records. Be wary of any problems that keep going wrong with the car as they could be faults that are difficult or impossible to fix. Also check that the mileage in the car’s clock matches with the MOT certificates to ensure you pay the most accurate price for the car’s value.

Deciding on a price

Most sellers have some room for negotiation in the asking price for the car. Compare the price of other cars on the market and never pay more than you think it is worth - or more than your budget. If you are struggling to get the price down, you might be able to agree on a servicing or maintenance deal.

What to arrange before paying

Establish what is included in the price and make sure any work that was agreed to be done has been carried out before you hand over the money. Arrange collection and delivery times and methods. Ensure all of these arrangements are in writing so you can refer to them should you need to. Get a receipt from the seller including the details of the car, the mileage at the point of sale, the seller’s details, any terms of sale and the price. Before driving away, check you have the V5C, the service history, the handbook and the locking wheel nut adaptor (if it has one) at the very least.

Get started

The team at Peoples Ford is experienced in handling and advising on used car sales. We have a well-stocked range of Approved Used cars for sale that you can view and test drive with the help of an advisor. All of the cars in the collection are thoroughly checked and tested by onsite technicians so you can rest assured that they are high quality, reliable and safe to drive. Visit us or pick up the phone and call us to find out more about buying a used car and to arrange an appointment with the team.