How to Choose a Reliable Dealer when Buying a Used Car
Buying a new car can be both stressful and exciting. If it’s not the number of models and versions available – plus diesels, petrols and hybrids – the choices can seem almost endless before you have even got to the detailed decisions of a used car’s mileage or condition.
Purchasing a second-hand vehicle from a dealer is often the safest route. You see, dealers are obliged to prepare the car before offering it for sale, including verifying the accuracy of the recorded mileage. Also, while buying from a dealer can be more expensive than buying privately, you do have more legal protection if things don’t go to plan.
Whilst there are plenty of things to trip you up in the used car buying process, there is also plenty you can do to help yourself too. First things first, it’s time to do a little homework on where and how to find the best deal.
Is there a particular time of year that’s best?
Summer is when drivers dream of buying convertibles, making winter a good time to haggle for a deal on one. But, if you’re buying from a private seller, there’s unlikely to be a good or bad time. Private sellers don’t have targets to meet, other than the price they want to achieve. For a quiet time, try to avoid weekends, or the start of the month, just after payday. If you’re buying privately, it’s also worth picking a time when other potential buyers might be away. One way to slash costs is to buy at the right time. Dealers have targets to meet, with bonuses up for grabs. Typically, these are based on quarterly sales, making the end of March, June, September and December a good time to buy. They need to shift cars, so will be more willing to negotiate and offer attractive finance packages.
Dealer vs private sale?
It depends. Dealers often give warranties on approved used cars and will have made the car look and feel new, with faulty parts replaced before sale. So you may pay more buying from a dealer than from a private buyer, but this route often gives you peace of mind about the car and makes it easier to make a complaint if things go wrong. Choosing a reliable, trustworthy dealer will help to avoid post-sale problems. Alternatively, if you’re willing to pay a bit more for peace of mind you could buy ‘approved used’ from a car manufacturer’s franchised dealer. This is the most expensive option, but the car’s history should’ve already been checked and it will come with a warranty.
How do I negotiate?
Psychologically, if they have to chase you, rather than you being super keen, it’s more likely to lead to a better deal. Look for the tiniest of dents or scratches. This makes them more difficult to flog, but still great to drive. Remember, do it with humour and there’s no suggestion too outrageous. You can haggle virtually anywhere for anything. It’s pretty much expected of you, so bargain hard. The first rule is that you should never pay the list price of the car – you’d be a fool to hand over the full cost. Arm yourself with the cheapest prices and make dealers compete for your custom. Dealers often say they’re not allowed to give discounts but if you’re new to haggling, an easy starting point is asking them to throw something in on top. As negotiations come to a close, a classic sales technique is staying silent. They want you to accept the price just to fill the awkward silence. Make them fill it with a cheaper offer.
How should I finance it?
Provided that the total cost of the car you’re buying is between £100 and £30,000, paying anything towards it by credit card means the card company is equally liable along with the dealer if things go wrong. However, some dealers don’t accept credit cards, others charge you for using one. Finally, some dealers will only allow you to pay a limited amount by card.
Where to start?
Ultimately buying a second-hand car can cost you much less. Whilst at the same time getting you a better car than getting a brand new one. Whichever route you choose, though, when buying your next used car, do not buy a car that you are not 100 per cent happy with. If it does not feel right, just walk away – there will always be another just around the corner.