Buying a used car? Five tips to cut costs not corners

The world of secondhand cars can be a murky one, full of pitfalls and unscrupulous sellers, so follow our five top tips to avoid getting ripped off.

Buying from a dealer, such as TW White and Sons, may cost you more initially, but could save you a fortune in the long run. Buying privately is a bit of a lottery, even if you know what you’re doing. And never hand over cash to someone who refuses to meet you at their home address. First off a dealer is bound by the Sale of Goods Act, which states that products must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. If it’s not, you have the right to a full or partial refund. Plus, most dealers will offer the added reassurance of a warranty.
Always negotiate, even if doesn’t come naturally. Remember that the advertised price is what the vendor wants, not necessarily what the car is worth. So there is almost always a bit of wriggle room on that figure, or if you’re going to finance the payment through a dealership they may be able to reduce the interest rate. Agree on a budget and stick to it. For most people, buying a car is a big deal, so don’t get overexcited and allow yourself to be talked into paying more than you can afford. And do a bit of research before you go. Check out prices of the same model of the same age, condition and mileage, so you know what you should paying.

This is fairly obvious, but don’t buy a lemon. Buyer beware is the key phrase here. Whatever guarantees you get, the level of after sales service can vary widely. And even the Sale of Goods Act doesn’t cover you if you’ve missed something obvious, such as rust or a dent, when you bought the car or if it is something that was described to you at the time. So check the car over with a fine-tooth comb and don’t even view a motor when it’s wet or in poor light.

Another important consideration is running costs, so again do a bit of research into what tax band the car falls into. If you’re going to end up paying £300 a year for road tax and the 3-litre V8 that you’ve been tempted into gulps fuel at an astonishing rate, it’s going to start hurting sooner or later. Insurance isn’t such an issue if you’re of a certain age and have a decent amount of no-claims, but you still don’t want it to come as a nasty surprise.

Always check on consumables and condition. Tyres can be surprisingly expensive, as can brake discs and pads, especially when you factor in labour costs. Check such components over carefully and, if anything needs repairing or replacing imminently, use it to negotiate the price down.