The second it leaves the showroom, a car’s value drops by around 20%. This figure increases to 40% in the vehicle’s first year, so buying a used car is a great way of cutting your driving costs.
However, the used car market can be something of a minefield, making what should be one of life’s more pleasurable experiences anything but: you spend hours online and on foot seeing what cars are out there, fending off pop-up ads and pushy salesmen. When you do finally get your vehicle, you spend a large amount of your time on the road worrying that something will go very wrong, very soon.
If you want to go with the most financially savvy option, here are some tips to help you choose with your head and avoid problems down the road…
1. Work Out The Type of Vehicle You Need
It may sound blindingly obvious, but your first step should be to consider the type of car you need, how many people it will have to fit and what you’ll be using it for. Do you need an MPV with more than five seats, or will a standard family car suffice?
Fuel efficiency is important. I personally recommend looking at eco-friendly cars such as electrics, hybrids and LPG models. If you want to go with a more traditional design, consider what sort of journeys you’ll be making: if you’re going to be doing a lot of motorway miles a fuel efficient diesel might be your best bet; for short journeys around town a car with a smaller petrol engine would be more appropriate.
Once you’ve chosen a make or model, you’ll need to look at the running costs, fuel consumption, road tax and insurance, as well as MOT servicing and repair costs. It’s no use having a great car if you can’t afford to keep it on the road, so bear all of this in mind before committing to a particular model and starting your search.
2. Work Out How Much You Can Afford
Once you know what type of car you’re looking for, you should be able to work out how much you need to shell out. The easiest way of doing this is to search classified ads online and in your local newspaper to help you get a feel for the average price of the vehicle you want. Online price guides are another great tool.
Whatever you choose to pay, make sure you bear your spending power in mind when you buy. Remember that there will always be a better car which can be bought for slightly over budget, but that you set your budget to stop you from splashing out a damaging chunk of your finances.
3. Make Sure You Get All of the Information You Need
Forewarned is forearmed; you want to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Before you part with your hard-earned money, complete an identity and history check on the vehicle to make sure that it has never been written off and isn’t stolen or part of a finance deal.
Look at the paperwork which is available with the car – ideally it will have a full service history and MOT certificates – and check the car’s mileage against old documents and any advisory notes on the last MOT certificate. This should give you an accurate idea of any problems the car has.
It is always useful to ascertain whether there are any faults common to the specific model, and whether these have been dealt with or are reflected in the price.
Now all you have to do is go out and find your car! To browse an extensive selection of used cars, try checking out a site such as ExchangeandMart.co.uk or, if you’d prefer a helping hand, go to a reputable dealer for some good, honest advice and help choosing a suitable vehicle. They’ll know which models make perfect family cars and can help you choose something to suit the whole brood.