The process of buying a vehicle can be a confusing and stressful one – it doesn’t help that buying a car is often the second most expensive purchase you’re likely to make after your home.
But there are some simple things you can do to make the task a little easier…
Do your research
As with many other things, knowledge is a key tool to make your buying experience as easy as possible, and the more you know about the model you want, the better. It’s also good to know what your ideal model would look like, so if you can nail down a colour, engine and trim level, that gives you a goal to aim for.
There’s a wealth of places you can go to when buying a used car and it’s important that you pick the right one for you. You could head to a main dealer, an independent dealer or look for a private seller, and then there’s the option of an auction either in-person or online.
Main dealers are likely to be the most clued-up when it comes to the car in question, though there are plenty of independent dealers out there who specialise in individual makes too. Go for a private seller and you may get a better deal, but remember that there’s little comeback should something go wrong with the car in the first few months of ownership.
Auctions are another place where you can get a good deal. But they’re riskier and less appealing if you don’t feel as confident about a car’s valuation – you need to be certain about what a car is worth before bidding.This is the same for online auctions, too.
If you’re planning on heading down the dealer route, check them out online for any customer reviews to see how well they treat prospective buyers. Also see what they’re like with aftersalesby reading reviews as well, just in case you need any further equipment or help with your vehicle. Talking to people is another good way of judging which dealers are best. It’s also a good idea to find a dealer who isn’t too far away from you as if something does go wrong with the car, you’ve not got too far to travel.
Even with used cars, dealers are often left counting up their sales figures at the end of each quarter. You may be surprised to hear that if you buy a car towards the end of each of those – i.e. in March, June, September and December – you may be able to get abetter deal and help dealers improve their sales figures.
Take it out for a drive
If you have your heart set on a particular model, it’s essential to organise a test drive so you can get a real feel of what it’s like. It’s more than likely that a sales representative will come with you on the drive, but don’t be shy to press all the buttons and see what every feature can do so you can get used to the car before you buy it. Some dealers do offer overnight test drives or weekend tests, but this is down to the policy of the dealership.
When it comes to the route you take, make sure you include the types of road that you frequently drive on – if you’re looking for along distance motorway cruiser you’ll not learn much if all you do is pootle around town at 20mph. But most importantly, you must find out whether the car suits you and your driving style.
There are 4 main ways of getting a car – hire purchase (HP), personal contract purchase (PCP), personal leasing (PCH) and buying outright. Through hire purchase, you put down a deposit for the vehicle, then repay the rest of the balance through a series of monthly payments. By the end of the contract and when all the money is paid, you’ll own the car.
Hire Purchase (HP)
You have to put down a deposit before paying monthly instalments. By the end of the agreement, you will own the vehicle, and will be a cheaper solution in the long run.
Personal Contract Purchase (PCP)
This method requires an initial deposit and is followed by a series of monthly payments. At the end of the agreement you have 3 choices – use the car as a deposit for a PCP agreement, give the car back or pay the final ‘Balloon payment’ and own the vehicle. Normally has lower monthly payments than HP and PCH.
Personal Contract Hire (PCH)
As with HP and PCP agreements, you need to put down a deposit with PCH as well. However, at the end of the contract, you won’t own the vehicle. Monthly costs are usually higher than PCP, too.
This is usually the cheapest method of buying a vehicle. Although you need to have the full amount at the point of purchase, you’ll avoid paying interest on a loan or financial agreement.
It’s also worth seeing if you can bring the price of the vehicle down or add any further servicing plans by haggling with the dealer. In many cases, there is some wiggle room to get money off the price of the car.
And if you’ve seen a similarly specced car for less than the one you’re hoping to buy, stick to your guns and try to push the price down as much as you can. If you want to see if the dealer will provide any other freebies with the vehicle, the worst they can say is no, so it’s worth giving that a go, too.
Don’t be scared to walk
The deal for the car you want may not fall your way. You can walk always walk away if it doesn’t feel right or the asking price isn’t as flexible as you would’ve hoped – though remember to keep realistic. There are hundreds of dealers and thousands of used cars around, so more likely than not, you’ll be able to find a deal that’s right for you somewhere else down the line.