Buying a used car: Ask the experts

Thinking about buying your next vehicle? Do you have questions about buying a used car or getting car finance? Our experts answer your most commonly asked used car and car finance questions, and offer advice on everything from your rights as a consumer to your eligibility for finance. 

What to look for when buying a used car

Do your research. Check used car reviews for the makes and models that you’re interested in, and look at running costs and reliability as well as trim options and engine size.

You’ll need to ask the car’s owner for the V5C, handbook and full service history. If you’re buying from a dealer, you should also ask about the payment structure, any car finance options and warranty details.

Carefully inspect the general condition of the car, checking for any irregularities within the bodywork or paint, any chips in the windows, and the tread depth on all the tyres. We have a team of engineers that can provide a pre-purchase inspection to make sure your car is safe and in the condition you’d expect it to be in.

You should also take it for a test drive, preferably on the sort of roads you use most often.

Can I buy a used car on finance or is it only for new cars?

Just like with a new vehicle, a used car can be bought on finance.

You could borrow up to £25,000 through AA car finance* to help buy a second-hand car. Any repayments will vary depending on how much you borrow, the repayment period agreed and your current credit score.

Am I eligible for car finance?

You can find out if you’d be approved for AA car finance – and how much you could borrow – with our free eligibility checker. By looking at your credit file (without affecting your credit score) we can carry out an affordability check to see how likely it is that your application would be successful. Once you’ve received a quote you can apply but this will involve a full credit search.

If you’d like a rough estimate of what your monthly payments are likely to be, use the AA car finance calculator.

What are my consumer rights when buying a used car from a dealer?

When you’re buying a car from a dealer, you’re covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This states that any car bought must ‘be of a satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described’.

Usually this means that you have the right to reject a faulty vehicle within the first 30 days for a full refund. After 30 days, however, you might only be able to get a repair, partial refund or replacement. As it’s harder to prove that any faults on the car are pre-existing, after this time, the dealer is less likely to accept fault and could claim that they’re due to wear and tear.

Buying a used car through an approved AA dealer will give you additional cover. We offer a mediation service to help resolve any issues that may arise between a dealer and customer. And we guarantee a free history check, minimum 6 months MOT, a vehicle road test, and the inclusion of all relevant documents.

Is a second-hand diesel car a good investment?

More major cities are creating restricted traffic areas and Clean Air Zones to tackle pollution, with older diesel (and some petrol) vehicles among those being excluded or charged to enter. If you’re regularly travelling into a big town or city and really want a diesel then you might consider getting a newer, cleaner ‘Euro 6’ diesel model.

Diesel vehicles can provide better fuel economy than petrol alternatives, so they might still be the better choice for you – especially if you have a long commute, drive on the motorway regularly, or have a higher than average annual mileage.

How reliable are used cars?

While it’s entirely dependent on each individual vehicle, their history and how well they’ve been driven and maintained, some car manufacturers have better reputations than others.

The Toyota Yaris and Suzuki SX4 S-Cross won joint first place in a recent ‘reliability survey. They were the only 2 cars rated 100% for reliability. The rest of the top 5 spots were held by the Nissan LeafToyota RAV4 and BMW 3 Series.

Are used car prices negotiable?

Most used car dealers will be open to some haggling over the price and package, but a lot depends on the seller or dealer. There are a few things to keep in mind when attempting a negotiation.

  • Cross reference prices of similar models with other sellers or dealerships
  • If you’re looking to part-exchange, find out how much your car could be worth before you go to a dealership
  • Take note of any damage or faults on the car you’re interested in as this could help you knock the price down
  • Find out how long the car’s been available for sale.

Research and preparation will go a long way to helping negotiate the best possible deal.

What paperwork do I need when I buy a used car?

It’s important to make sure that you have the funds required or finance in place to complete your purchase. You will have to tax and insure it before you can drive it away..

Most of the required paperwork can now be completed online including accessing the full official MOT record.

Both you and the seller must contact the DVLA to let them know that the vehicle has changed hands. You need to make sure you’re given the car’s V5C registration document, handbook and a copy of its full service history.

Which used cars depreciate the least?

Most cars lose value over time, but those that do most slowly tend to be those that can match rarity with popularity. Some sports cars and SUVs hold their value better, as demand outstrips supply for some models and makes.

Another factor is the trim levels. It’s worth looking at specific styles in more detail to see if they hold their value better. Checking how much a used vehicle is listed for against the cost of a brand new version is a quick way to get an idea of how well they hold their value.

What’s the best time of year to buy a used car?

There are good deals to be had all year round but February and August tend to be good times to look as dealers attempt to clear their forecourts in anticipation of the new number plates arriving. Buying a vehicle while it’s out of season can also be a good tactic, with sales of convertibles dropping in the winter while 4×4 purchases are at their peak – buying while demand is lower could lead to a better deal.

What’s the best way to sell my car?

There are several avenues to explore when looking to sell your car, including a private sale, part exchange or using a car buying service. While they’re the most convenient, selling to a car buying service will often give you the lowest price for your vehicle while trading-in may be worth the additional hassle for a better deal.

For further information and help, we’ve put together a series of tips for selling your car successfully.

How do I find out what my car is worth?

How much a used car is worth comes down to a lot more than just make and model. You also need to take into account the vehicle’s age, condition, mileage, number of previous owners plus the service and MOT history.

Powered by Wizzle, our free online valuation tool will help you find a competitive price from a reliable buyer by giving more than 3,000 reputable buyers the chance to bid for your car. There’s no obligation to sell but if you want to go ahead, Wizzle makes it as easy as possible.

Image courtesy of iStock.

*AA Car Finance is a brand style of Used Car Sites Limited. Registered address: Fanum House, Basing View, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG21 4EA.

Used Car Sites Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (firm reference number 671360). Used Car Sites Limited (trading as AA Cars) is a credit broker which introduces AA Car Finance customers to Evolution Funding Limited. Evolution Funding Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for credit brokerage (firm reference number 669005). Registered address: Thompson Close, Whittington Moor, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 9AZ. Evolution Funding Ltd and Used Car Sites Limited are credit brokers not lenders. Finance subject to status.

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