Home / Car News / A Newbie’s Guide To The Used Car Buying Process


To some people, buying a used car is a complicated and frustrating affair. The thing about buying a car is that you often have to do a lot of research and preparation. That can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re meant to be investigating, for instance!

It seems there is a lot that people, especially those in the motor trade, neglect to tell you. Because of this lack of knowledge, you could end up with a sour deal if something goes wrong. That’s why it is important to get armed with the knowledge you need to know before you buy a used car.

The focus of this article is to walk you through the used car buying process. That way, when you go and purchase a vehicle, you won’t get affected by any potential pitfalls. Here is what you need to know:


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Stick to an affordable budget

One thing you should never do is agree to buy a car that you cannot afford! It doesn’t matter whether you are buying a used car with your savings or borrowing the money. The one golden rule to buying used vehicles is to limit yourself to what you can afford.

That means you shouldn’t buy a Range Rover like the one pictured above if you can only afford a Rover 45! And it’s not just the purchase price you need to consider. You also need to work out how much it would cost to run the car too.

Servicing and maintenance bills on some cars can be astronomical. If possible, get some quotes from main dealers for standard services and repairs. If you know people that own the same model you want to buy, ask them what costs they have incurred.

In general, the higher the brand new price of the car, the higher the maintenance bills will be. Do some online research to learn what prices you are likely to pay during the course of your ownership.

Buy as new a car as possible for the money

Let’s say you have the choice of two cars. One is a prestige, 10-year old vehicle. The other is a five-year-old mid-range car. In such a situation, you should consider the newer car. Why? Because you aren’t likely to suffer significant repair costs with the newer model!

As a car gets older, your repair bills will start to increase. The parts used on today’s cars don’t last forever. They all have a limited lifespan. That’s why, if possible, you should go for the newer car.

Stick to trusted dealerships

There are thousands of car dealers in the UK. Some of them are small, independent outfits with just ten or fewer cars for sale. Others might have hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles in group stock.

But you shouldn’t let the size of the showroom dictate whether they are a good dealership or not. I’ve seen examples of dodgy dealers that have football fields full of cars they want to sell. But their service is shocking. And the legitimacy of their vehicles is questionable.

It’s crucial that you only consider buying your car from a trusted dealership. It will save you a lot of time, hassle, and money, in the long run. Dealers like Sandles are only too happy to show their customers the vehicles they sell are genuine and roadworthy.

As usual, word of mouth is useful for learning of which dealers are the best to approach. Sometimes it can be hard to judge a car dealership by their premises or their website. It’s always better to learn from other people’s buying experiences.


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Don’t forget to do your background checks

Before you hand over any money, you must make sure the car you want to buy is legitimate. There are a few ways of doing this. First, check that the seller has the V5C document (i.e. the “log book”).

In that document, there should be the car’s VIN – “Vehicle Registration Number.” Check that the VIN matches the one stamped on the car’s chassis. The VIN is usually stamped in the engine bay and near the driver’s door. You can also see it on a label between the dashboard and windscreen.

Next, check that the registration mark on the V5C matches the plates on the car. Don’t get alarmed if they don’t always match up. Sometimes the dealer has to apply for the registration number if the previous owner wants to keep their private plate.

An HPI check is also an essential check when buying any used car. It will tell you if the car got reported stolen or is an insurance write-off. Once all those checks pass, you can be sure the car you want is legitimate.

Sealing the deal

An unwritten rule of the used car market is never to pay the full advertised price. You should always negotiate on the price so that you pay less for your new pride and joy. If the car were on sale for a long time, it would give you even greater room for negotiation.

That’s because the dealer is keen to sell the vehicle. Always negotiate on the price first and then talk about part exchanging your current car. If you don’t, the dealer could manipulate the figures and give you a raw deal.

After you’ve bought the car

There are a few things you should do once you have the car in your possession. First, determine whether you need to have any essential repairs or maintenance carried out. For example, when I bought my current car, I needed to have it serviced and fitted with brand new tyres.

Next, try to track down any lost parts of the car’s service history. One place to start is with the main dealer that sold the car to its first owner. They will often keep records going back around ten years.

You could also contact the garages where the car had its MOT tests done. Often car owners will have their cars serviced at the same place it had an MOT.


About the author: Matthew Sadler


Matthew is a Senior Editor at Cars Edition Network and eBest Cars UK - Car Reviews.


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