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How to buy a used car

Jasmine Birtles 27th Jan 2020 One Comment

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Contributed post from heycar

The UK used car market is thriving at a time when sales of new cars continue to decline – but how do you make sure that you get the best possible deal on your next car?

There were approximately eight million used car transactions in 2019 and the age of a used car is coming down to an average of seven years old as drivers change cars more often. With more cars to choose from and more cars of a higher quality than ever before, buyers need to be sure they’re making the right choice.

Here are some tips for getting the very most for your money…


Trade in your old car

It’s now easier than ever to make money from your old car to help finance your next purchase. Sites like heycar can give you a quick valuation so that you can put that into your budget. Take a look here.


Do a budget (ugh, I know…but it genuinely helps)

In an ideal world, we’d all have cash saved to buy big money purchases like cars outright. If you have been saving for a while (well done you!), and you have a pot of money already in your savings account, that will immediately tell you how much you can afford to spend. Job done!

But if the kind of car you need (maybe a big family car or a sleek motor to impress the clients) costs more than you have right now, you will need to borrow to buy it. So factor in the cost of paying off the loan when you budget for your monthly expenses. Also, of course, whichever car you buy, there will be ongoing costs like insurance, petrol, maintenance and so on.

Consider flexible options that suit you and calculate your contract length, deposit and repayments.

It’s a good idea to do a budget anyway, just for life generally, and if you do one now, you will be able to see how much spare cash you have each month to spend on a new car.  That will help you choose the car that won’t break the bank.


The internet is your friend!

The next thing to do is to research the market. It used to be that you had to wear out your shoe leather visiting dealership after dealership and phoning around to nail down a good deal. But now, you can browse cars at dealerships all over the country from the comfort of your armchair!

Research from heycar found that 6 in 10 people do their research online before buying their next used car. Research is key, and will help you find out:

  • What sort of cars you could get for your budget and what car is best for your needs (e.g a small car for short local journeys or a larger car for your family) – the comparison tool would help with this
  • How much you could get by trading in your current motor – use the heycar valuation tool
  • Which dealers close to you have the sort of cars you’re looking for
  • Which websites could offer you a good deal


How to spot a winner

Buy a good second-hand car

If you’re new to car-ownership this is the hardest part of the process. All the cars look shiny and lovely in the pictures, but it’s what’s going on under the hood that matters.

It’s a really good idea to buy from a reputable dealership if you’re a new buyer or you’ve not got too much knowledge. With a reputable dealership or website you know that they will have put the car through a rigorous inspection and will have made good any initial problems. Also you are more likely to be able to get a warranty which should cover you for six to twelve months to give you peace of mind.

A starting point for questions are:

  1. Can you prove the mileage? Any reputable dealer should be able to do this easily
  2. How many previous owners has it had? Generally, the fewer the better
  3. Can I see the full service history?
  4. Has the car ever been in an accident? If so, ask for details and ask to be shown the area affected
  5. How long is the warranty and what does it cover? If it’s six months see if they will throw in an extra six months
  6. How long should I keep it before it will need replacing?
  7. Would I be better off with an electric car? Two in five drivers are considering an electric vehicle as their next car, according to the Britain Under the Bonnet report. They’re generally more expensive to buy but they are cheaper than a petrol or diesel car to run and are considered less harmful to the environment.

There are helpful websites out there which do a lot of this legwork for you. For example, every car listed on heycar is from a reputable dealer, has been quality and history checked and comes with a warranty – so you can have peace of mind before you even step on the forecourt.


Think about finance options

Just as there are lots of makes and models to choose from, there are also many different finance options available should you need them.

Many dealers can help you set up affordable monthly instalments in line with your budget, but you could also get a better rate with an ordinary loan from a bank or building society. Go online and see what’s on offer on comparison sites like Moneyfacts to see what rate you could get, and explore all of the low cost car credit options available to you, before asking the dealer.

It’s also worth looking at car finance deals online, so you can get a benchmark before you go to the dealership.

Make sure you choose the right option for you (one that’s flexible too!) and that you’re totally clear on how, and how much, you’ll be paying.


heycar is the used car website you can trust to make finding your perfect used car easy. All vehicles on the site are quality checked, come with a warranty and are from selected dealers. To find the best used cars, search heycar.

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4 years ago

Some useful advice.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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