13 tips for buying a used car from a dealer

In many ways, it makes sense to purchase your next used car from a dealer, rather than a private seller. It’s the less intimidating route if you’ve never or rarely bought a second-hand vehicle before. Furthermore, you’ll benefit from a degree of legal protection, given that dealers are obliged to properly prepare a car before selling it.

But of course, there’s still a lot that can go wrong and right when buying a used car from a dealer. Here are some tips for ensuring you clinch the best possible vehicle for the most competitive price.

  1. Think about what you need in a car

There’s little point in purchasing a sleek two-seater coupe if you’re about to welcome several new additions to the family. So, before even approaching a dealer, ask yourself what you’ll realistically need from your next vehicle, rather than what you might initially desire.

Ensuring whatever vehicle you buy has ample room for everyone who will be travelling in it is an obvious priority.

But also consider where, how often and for what distance you will be driving the car, whether you would prefer petrol or diesel, and other practical factors, such as whether you might need the car to fit into a restricted space or tow a trailer.

  1. Calculate your budget and what the car will cost you

Once you have an idea of the make and model you may be looking to purchase, start doing your sums on how much it will set you back, to determine whether it will fit in your budget.

The headline price of the car is obviously a vital consideration, whether you pay the full amount for it upfront or seek a car finance deal through a broker like CarFinanceGenie. But you’ll also need to think carefully about such ongoing costs as fuel, tax, insurance and MOTs.

  1. Buy towards the end of a sales quarter

Dealers’ targets tend to be based on quarterly sales, which makes it a potentially good idea to visit a dealership towards the end of March, June, September or December. Their eagerness to sell cars at this time might make them likelier to agree to the price you desire.

Don’t be too aggressive about it, though. Turning up on the last day of the quarter risks you missing out on any discount at all, as the dealer may have already long hit their quarterly target.

  1. Don’t be afraid to haggle

Sure, the prospect of haggling can be intimidating, especially if it’s not something you have done before or very often. But dealers practically expect it from you, so you shouldn’t be too scared of it, either.

Tips for successful haggling include getting the dealer to throw in something for free, even if it’s literally just a sat-nav or some floor mats. Also keep an eye out for cars that are already reduced in price, as this may indicate the dealer’s willingness to accept further discounting.

Also be prepared to walk away if you aren’t absolutely confident about the deal. This will make you likelier to receive a better offer than if you come across as super-keen to buy.

  1. Consider which extras you actually need

While we’re on the subject of things the dealer might ‘throw in’, check what’s actually being thrown in – as well as whether it’s truly a ‘must-have’ and is even free.

It isn’t just the likes of sat-navs, alloy wheels or Bluetooth that might be included as extras – warranties, service plans and even insurance may also be offered.

Don’t necessarily dismiss the usefulness of these, but do compare the overall price you’re being offered to how much it would set you back to purchase a version of the vehicle without such ‘mod-cons’. You may find that you’re effectively paying for those extras in the price of the car.

  1. Don’t ask “what is your best price?”

It’s best to be upfront with the sales executive about what you actually want. Simply asking “what is your best price?” is unlikely to get you far, as the official “best price” at that point will be the one on the sticker.

Also, the longer an already-discounted car has been sat on the forecourt, the less scope there may be for any further serious money off the price.

  1. Be nice to the dealer

This might seem a slightly surprising tip. However, it’s important to remember that when you are face-to-face with a sales executive at the dealership, much of your success in landing a good deal will depend on how you handle this personal interaction.

So, even if you do want to drive a hard bargain, try to be reasonable and pleasant with it. If the sale exec perceives you as likeable, they may be more willing to offer discounts or benefits than if you come across as a nightmare customer.

  1. Do a visual check of the car

Don’t run the risk of finding yourself opening the bonnet while having no idea what to look out for. So, do a Google search in advance of the key things to be mindful of when performing a visual check of the particular make and model of car.

The general things that you ought to examine about any used car include the tyres – the tread should be 1.6mm as a legal minimum – as well as any dents or scratches, panel gaps, and the fluid levels, the latter including oil, brake and power steering fluid.

Also test the electrics by winding the windows up and down and turning the radio on and off, and look at the upholstery, too. Do the seats have any stains or tears, and how does it smell? Bad smells aren’t just a turnoff – they can also be tricky to get eradicate.

  1. Don’t scare the sales exec on the test drive…

Sure, a test drive is a crucial part of ascertaining the suitability of a given car for purchase. But there’s no need to terrify the sales executive in the process.

It’s another thing that will make them less likely to look upon you favourably, not to mention how it could risk the safety of both of you.

  1. …but do be aware of what to look out for

Instead of risky driving to ‘put the car through its paces’, you should spend your test drive being alert to the classic signs of problems.

Obviously, the vehicle should start fine – any problems here could indicate the need for a new battery or alternator. Also watch the temperature gauge, as if it gets quickly up to halfway and stays there, this might be a sign of the car needing a new thermostat.

Also ensure it’s straightforward to find the clutch’s biting point, all of the gears select easily, steering is smooth, the engine isn’t rough and noisy, and the car generally performs as you would expect.

  1. Ask whether the car has been in a crash

Cars can, of course, be involved in minor collisions and bumps all of the time. So, the car having been crashed previously may not be a great concern if it was not a severe incident and the vehicle has been repaired to a good standard.

If in doubt, ask for documentation to confirm any repairs.

  1. Make sure you have the necessary paperwork

You can expect to be handed a bunch of documents when you purchase a used car, so you should take the time to check that nothing crucial is missing.

The V5C or logbook should certainly be present, this being issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) as proof that you are the vehicle’s keeper. In addition, you should make sure you have received the servicing booklet, manuals and sales contract, as well as that you understand the small print of any car finance deal you might require before committing to it.

  1. Familiarise yourself with your rights

Purchasing a car from a dealer gives you certain rights under the Consumer Rights Act. For example, the vehicle must be of “satisfactory quality”, “as described” and “fit for purpose”.

The vehicle is also required to last for a reasonable length of time – and if it doesn’t meet such criteria, the dealer has broken its contract with you. This may entitle you to a repair, replacement or refund.

Are you ready to #WishUponACar? If so, it takes just minutes to apply for car finance through CarFinanceGenie. When you do, you could soon be in a position to drive away your ideal used vehicle from one of the trusted dealers making up our extensive network.