How to protect yourself from a used car buying disaster

Buying a car

There’s going to be a point in pretty much all of our lives when it’s time to buy a car. For most of us, that’ll mean looking for a used option, but how exactly does that work? With 7.9m used cars sold in the UK in 2018, there’s certainly plenty of choice out there, so much so that it can be a pretty daunting prospect figuring out where to begin.

The problem with used cars is they are exactly that: used. When it comes to buying one, you face a number of risk factors, from the credibility of the seller to the true condition of the car. Assuming most people’s basic priorities of price, reliability and value for money – what can you be doing to avoid disaster when buying a used motor?

Do your research


Buying a car, no matter how much of a banger it is, is a big deal. And with any big purchase, it pays to do your research before you dive in any further.

Start with looking into the best used car brands to buy. Which manufacturers have the best reputation for long-term reliability and build quality? What budget options are out there that are likely to give you the most bang for your buck?

Once you have an idea of the sort of models you want to go for, shop around. Get as many dealer and private seller prices as possible to understand what the going rate is. Then, if you see an outlier price that seems too good to be true, you’ll know it probably is.

Dealer or private seller?

There’s a trade off you need to weigh up when it comes to who you buy from. In almost all circumstances, buying from an established dealer will afford you more protection, but it will cost you more than buying privately.

Most dealerships will offer an approved used section – as in vehicles that have been checked over and tested before sale. You can also go in for auto insurance resource to assure your vehicle is in safe hands. Any faulty parts will have been replaced, while the vehicle itself will have been cleaned within an inch of its life to look pretty on the forecourt.  Approved used cars NI and UK-wide often come with some level of warranty, and if anything turns out to be wrong with the vehicle, you should be able to get a repair, replacement or refund.

Naturally, buying from the man on the street affords no such protections. Often looking for a quick sale, you have no guarantees of seller reputation or the reliability of the car description, but you’ll save some money.

It’s a tough one – you could have found a bargain, but you also could have bought a piece of scrap. If we’re talking strictly about ducking a disaster, it’s probably best you stick to a dealership.

Take your time

Buying a car

Regardless of which type of seller you choose, but particularly if you decide to take a punt on a private sale, don’t be afraid to take your time with the buying process.

We’re all familiar with the kicking the tyres routine and making faces that suggest we have the faintest idea what we’re looking for, but your check of the car should actually have some meaning. Find a useful checklist of things you should be looking out for and be thorough in your review of the vehicle.

If you feel uncomfortable because the seller is standing right over your shoulder, ignore it – this is an important part of the sale and should not be overlooked. Once you’ve had a good scan inside and out, request a test drive – there should be no reason for the seller to turn this down. The test drive is your best bet to get a feel for the car. Again, know ahead of time what you should be looking and listening out for, and ask any questions you have.

If something doesn’t feel right, walk away. It’s as simple as that. Buying a used car does come with a few what ifs and maybes, but still, if your gut is telling you not to do it, it’s probably best to listen. Overall, there are no true guarantees with buying used – that’s just the nature of the market. However, with the right research, preparation and careful decision-making, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of finding your perfect car. 

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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