Are you in the market for a used car? With many new cars depreciating at more than 15% of their value every year, buying a used car is a cost-effective option that stops you from dealing with the high purchase price and depreciation of a new car.
There are several ways to buy a used car. You can visit a used car dealer and browse their selection, search online using eBay or a car trading website or buy a used car at auction, often for a significant discount.
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, from low prices to issues such as reliability and vehicle condition. The key to getting a great deal isn’t just found in the method you choose, but in the strategy you use to purchase a used car.
If you’re in the market for a used car and want to make sure you get a good deal but don’t know where to start, keep reading. The six tips below will help you get a great price on a used car, whether you buy privately, at auction or from a used car dealer.
Before you buy, research how long the car has been on the market
Just like you have more room to negotiate on a property when it’s been listed for a long period, you’ll be able to negotiate more effectively on cars that have been for sale for a long time.
Sellers often list their cars for sale at optimistic valuations, expecting to get an offer immediately. As the weeks and months go by, their optimism fades and their goals change from getting the highest price to simply ensuring the car is sold.
As a buyer, this is a major advantage for you. Before you make an offer on a vehicle, check how long it’s been on the market. The longer it’s been listed, the more likely it is that the seller will be interested in a lower-than-normal offer.
Choose a reliable, trustworthy seller to avoid post-sale problems
It’s easy to save money on a used car in the short term only to spend far more than you saved on repairs, maintenance and servicing. “Cheap” used cars are very often cheap for a reason – they cost a massive amount to keep up and running.
The best way to protect yourself against buying a lemon is to research as carefully as possible before committing to a deal and to avoid sellers that can’t offer you any post-sale support.
You face the most risks when you buy a car at a private sale or auction. For better peace of mind and a reduced risk of post-sale problems, it’s best to purchase your next used car from a dealer with a strong reputation of post-sale service.
Buying a car from a private seller is way too much work. An absence of trust makes things much more difficult
— John Brodie (@BrodieJP) August 2, 2012
For the lowest possible prices, look for private used car sales
When you purchase a car from a dealer, you pay a premium for their marketing and sales efforts, their post-sale service, their staffs’ salaries and even the rent on their location.
These costs add up, making the price of a used car from a dealer significantly higher than a similar model from a private seller. If you know what you’re looking for – and more importantly, what not to look for – you can save money by buying privately.
Websites like eBay, as well as used car magazines and newspapers, are packed with great deals on used cars. If you’re confident you can separate good deals from bad, a private seller will probably give you the best value for money for your next used car.
Used car we bought via private sale needs as much in repairs or more than we paid for it. Great!
— Lex Caddy (@lxbeams) December 4, 2013
Look for dents, chips, scratches and other points to negotiate on
Negotiation is both an art and a science. While it’s often easy to bring a seller down to the market price by showing them similar listings, it can be difficult to bring the price of a used car below the market price without some extra negotiation room.
To reduce the price of a used car as much as possible, look over the bodywork for scratches, dents and other imperfections. Mention them to the seller and ask for a discount – if they’re obvious, you’ll likely get one.
As well as cosmetic damage, it’s also worth looking for defects with the vehicle’s engine, transmission, chassis, suspension, electronics and other components. All defects, no matter how small, can be used as powerful negotiating tools.
Interested in a car? Check its MOT status and history online
Few experiences are as frustrating as finding what seems like a fantastic car and spending a significant amount of money to buy it, then realising it’s riddled with issues that weren’t obvious at first sight.
Luckily, this situation is easy to prevent. By searching for a vehicle’s MOT history online, you can usually spot problems and defects that could affect its reliability, then decide whether or not it’s worth buying.
In order to find a vehicle’s MOT history, you’ll need its registration mark, as well as either its MOT text number or V5C registration certificate reference number. Using both, you can search for its MOT history from 2005 onwards.
Not sure how much a car is worth? Check valuations online
Do you know how much a certain car is worth? With so many different makes and models available, it can be tough to know how much a certain car, from one model year to the next, is worth on the used market.
Before you make an offer on any used car, check its value to make sure you aren’t overpaying. Websites like Parkers and WhatCar? have valuation information for a wide range of used cars, from popular models to niche sports cars.
Once you know how much a car is worth, you’ll find it easier to negotiate and get a good deal. If you’re determined to get the best possible price, you can even print the valuation information to show to the seller while you negotiate the sale price.