What you need to know about buying a second-hand car
Published 30 August 2016
You could save by opting for a used model – but there are some things you should know about first.
There’s something special about a new car – the smell, the feel and the knowledge that you’re the first person to drive it. But you certainly pay for this privilege, especially as it’s a well-known fact that the value of a new car drops as soon as you drive it off the forecourt.
That’s probably the reason why the number of second-hand cars in the UK has reached its highest level yet. The Society of Motor and Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) found that just over 4.8 million vehicles were sold in the first half of this year, an increase of 8 per cent on last year.
Are you thinking about buying a second-hand car? We take you through what you should consider.
There are a number of perks that come with buying a second-hand car. It is almost always cheaper than if you were to buy a new model and you could find that you save on the cost of car insurance.
This is because it normally costs less for insurers to replace a cheaper car as a result of an accident than if it were a brand-new model. Just keep in mind that it could work out more expensive if you buy a car that’s more than 10 years old as the insurer might think that you’ll be more careless with it.
You can find fairly new second-hand cars, so you could get all of the up-to-date features such as fuel-efficiency and safety, without having to fork out a hefty price. There’s often a wider selection of cars to choose from as you can find them at garages, dealers or sellers in your local area.
When to buy
Choosing the right time to buy a used car can help you cut the cost of what you spend. Dealers have targets to meet so it could make sense to approach them during these times.
Targets can often be based on quarterly figures, meaning that the end of March, June, September and December could be ideal times to buy. Dealers might be more willing to negotiate or offer better deals during this period.
Private sellers won’t have any targets to meet. But there some things you can do to try to get a better deal. Pick times when other potential buyers might be away – for example, in the summer holidays or at Christmas time.
What to check
Before you buy, you should do some simple checks on the car’s history. Ask the seller for the car’s details (such as registration number, MOT test number, mileage as well as the make and model) and type this into the DVLA’s free online vehicle information checker.
You could delve deeper and get a private check to see if there are any serious problems with the car. This typically costs up to £20 and companies such as the AA, the RAC and AutoTrader all offer this service. Remember to check for any outstanding finance when buying a used caras well.
And you could look out yourself for any common faults typically found on second-hand cars. A guide by Auto Express and Warrantywise found the ten most common things that can go wrong with a used model.
These include faults with the gearbox – this takes up 8.4 per cent of all faults on second-hand cars. The worst affected model for this is the Vauxhall Astra, followed by the VW Golf and BMW 3 Series. The second most common problem is electrical problems – you can see the full list of the worst car faults on second-hand cars here.
You do have Consumer Rights when buying a used car to back you up. So make sure you’re aware of what these are, and bring them into force if you start to experience problems with a second-hand car that you bought.
Want to know what other options you have? You could consider buying a write-off car.