Buying a Used Car

A Quick Guide to Buying a Used Car

If you are considering buying a car and find the showroom prices of new vehicles to be expensive, have you considered buying a used car? There are in fact several advantages to buying used, but they may not be apparent in the first instance. For instance, a well looked-after used vehicle with a full service history will have been correctly run-in; modern cars, after all, are designed to cover tens of thousands of miles per year, and may even benefit from doing so thanks to the engineering involved. However, it is cost saving that is the major attraction, and in more ways than one.

Why Buy a Used Car?

A Quick Guide to Buying a Used CarA quality used car is still a major purchase for the buyer, but the benefits are there when you look closely. Consider buying a new car, even at discounted price over the list: how much will it be worth in, say, three years time, when you want to step up to a newer model? Here is a startling statistic: many cars of different values can lose in excess of 50% of their original cost in just three years. Many buyers are not aware of this, and fail to check the depreciation rates on the car they want to buy. Research has shown, for example, that the popular BMW 7-series, luxury cars popular with executives, are among the worst for depreciation, with 53% of value lost over three years. Beware that it is not just luxury vehicles that depreciate so rapidly, but the amount lost will be greater the more expensive the vehicle.

The upshot of this phenomenon is that anyone buying a three year old car, whatever class or model, has left someone else to shoulder the majority of the depreciation. That in itself is a major saving, let alone the price you will pay. Put simply, a car costing $30,000 when new will likely cost less than $18,000 when three years old, and should – if correctly maintained – be as good as new.

Where to Buy a Used Car?

There are many people selling used cars privately, and they can appear to be excellent bargains, but we strongly recommend you look for reputable dealers with well-known names. The advantaged are that you will have redress against the dealer if the car is faulty in some way: your private dealer may not be around when you go looking for your money back! Furthermore, many dealers are parts of a chain and can look at other branches for your chosen vehicle. The major ‘car supermarket’ chains – there are many of them around carrying a wide variety of stock – will happily bring a specific model from one showroom to another if it is what you require. They also offer excellent prices and some very useful guarantees.

Buying a Used Car at Auction

Buying at auction does not give you the guarantees offered by main dealers, but it can be a way of getting a serious bargain. Car auctions are held across the USA on a regular basis, and many are used by dealers to move on stock that they need to be rid of. Some are selling ex-fleet vehicles – there are benefits and drawbacks to these, with high mileages being the downside, regular maintenance the plus – which can be had for superb prices. We recommend you research the vehicle thoroughly – get a catalog in advance if one is available – and also carry out a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) check.

What is a VIN Check?

A VIN check is a way of getting a detailed report on the history of your potential purchase. The VIN is an individual number given to every vehicle manufactured for use on the road, and is used routinely by the police to register stolen cars, insurers to record accident damage, and dealers. For a small outlay you can use a service such as Carfax or AutoCheck to get a fully comprehensive report on the car’s history, any accident or other damage, whether it has been stolen or used as a fleet vehicle and much more. We consider this to be an essential investment whether buying at auction or through a dealer, as it safeguards the buyer against unwittingly purchasing a ‘lemon’.

Finance & Other Suggestions

Buying a used car is a major event for anyone and needs careful consideration, not least when it comes to finance. Both dealers and Auction Houses will most likely offer you finance deals, and these can be very competitive. If you have an old car ask whether they will take it as a trade in: some dealers do so even if the car is not working, or is damaged, in order to make life easier for the buyer. Banks can also be a good source of finance for a car, but make sure you have a decent credit score, and that you keep up repayments or the car will be taken back.

The key to buying a used car is careful consideration: if you do choose to buy privately make sure you run a VIN check – it really is worth the money – and if a dealer is reluctant to let you run a check, go elsewhere, The VIN check is your best friend when it comes to making sure you get a good deal.