For any car enthusiast, buying a car can be one of the most exciting and potentially the most troublesome of all purchases. New cars offer many advantages but unfortunately few of these turn out to be of any great financial benefit other than for the seller! Used cars on the other hand are generally regarded as providing the best value for money with a huge range of choice and tremendous savings compared to brand-new vehicles. With so many cars available, it would be easy to simply dive in and buy the first good looking car that comes along but before even considering the purchase of a used car, any potential buyer needs to take stock and consider the true implications of parting with hard-earned cash in exchange for an unknown car.
1. Choose the Right Kind of Car
There is a saying that styling sells cars and most of us prefer a car that looks good but the choice of make and model involves many factors other than good looks. Car buying involves both the heart and the head and the first priority is to select a car suitable for its intended use. A small sporty model may be fun but not suitable for a family. City dwellers looking for vehicle for the school run would be ill-advised to opt for a large 4×4 (Chelsea Tractor Syndrome) and those covering high mileages will need to give fuel efficiency a high priority. The good news is that, with such a thriving used car industry, everyone is guaranteed to find a car to fit in with their lifestyle. The days of relying on selecting a car from a local dealer are now largely behind us and most of today’s buyers know exactly the make and model they wish to buy but may not know the best place to find a suitable car.
2. Prices and Costs
Of course it is human nature to always try to get the best possible deal and we are all on the lookout for a bargain but in the world of used cars, offers that seem too good to be true invariably are. Before even looking at any suitable cars, the buyer needs to be familiar with the “correct” price for the make and model concerned by checking with cars currently offered for sale or by checking some of the online sites which provide valuations. This way, it is possible to spot instances where a seller may have offered a car at a slightly inflated price possibly indicating that some degree of haggling may be expected. The forecourt prices also may include some adjustment for higher or lower than average vehicle mileages. The purchase price is only part of the total cost of car ownership and for those who wish to really work out how much the car will cost to run, many other factors need to be taken into account such as depreciation, with many one year old cars costing around 25% less than their new price. Insurance costs may be a major factor especially for younger drivers and the costs of maintenance such as routine servicing should all be factored into the costing. The costs of fuel and road tax (V.E.D) may also be significant as is the cost of interest charges. This can be the cost of credit where applicable or the loss of savings interest for cash buyers. So, no matter how we look at it, running a car costs money!
3. Fuel Types
The choice of fuel type is usually determined on the basis of costs, with diesel engines often being favoured by high mileage motorists. At the present time, purely electric cars tend to be limited to city use but this will no doubt change as the technology continues to develop. Hybrid cars offer advantages but tend to be rather unpopular in the used car market. Bio-fuels and L.P.G form a very small part of the market leaving the petrol engine as the most common type of car engine. Many of today’s petrol engines offer very good fuel economy.
4. Age and Condition
Age and condition are the two things which make a used car different to a brand-new car. The motor industry recognises this and used cars are therefore priced depending on age and mileage. There is therefore usually very little difference between prices from dealer to dealer. There are ways to buy cheaper cars but some degree of risk is present. The first is to buy from a private individual who may be looking to sell his car for more than the trade-in price that he has been offered. Some savings may be found but there are very few comebacks if future faults develop. The same goes for car auctions and online sites such as ebay. It is worth noting that even secure payment methods such as PayPal do not offer a buyer protection policy for motor vehicles. Occasionally a car may be seen which seems to be very competitively priced and in such cases, the vehicle registration document (V5C) should be checked as it is likely to be recorded as “CAT D” or “CAT C”. Such a car has previously been an insurance write-off but has been repaired and put back on the road. In many cases, the repair work is completely satisfactory but these cars are always valued much lower than undamaged cars and some insurance companies will not consider providing cover for them. The best policy is always to invest in a genuine undamaged car with a known history.
5. Check Thoroughly and Test Drive
Having established that a car offered for sale is 100% genuine with no recorded history of damage or outstanding finance and the correct price having regard to its recorded mileage, the buyer should then thoroughly inspect the car for any minor defects. Minor blemishes such as stone chips or minor surface scuffs may be quite acceptable but should be pointed out and a discount may be forthcoming. All equipment should be tested and found to be in working order. Only by test driving the car can its mechanical condition be assessed and there should be no unusual noises or rattles, the brakes should operate smoothly and efficiently and the car should not pull to the left or right.
The used car market in the UK is improving in the favour of the buyer. There are schemes like the Hertz R2B scheme where you can effectively test the car for 5 days before committing to purchase.
The used car market may seem to be something of a minefield but in fact there are some great cars just waiting for their new owners and if the chosen car does not live up to expectations, it is a simple matter to walk away. In many ways used cars are rather like buses. If you miss one, another will soon come along!