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Ultimate Guide to buying a used car

Ultimate Guide to Buying a Used Car

Utility Saving Expert’s Guide to Buying a Used Car

You can save a lot of money by buying a used car in comparison to a new car. There is a large range of options in the used car market. It’s important to know all the facts and what to look out for to ensure you avoid any potential problems down the road. Let’s take a look at what you need to know before buying your next vehicle.

Used cars are far less expensive than new cars

£28,000. That’s the average price of a new car.

One year later with around 10,000 miles, it would cost around £21,000. That’s a 25% decrease after only 12 months. The depreciation will slow down as each year goes by, the above car would lose a further £3,500 to its value at year two. Used cars can help you make significant savings on the purchase price.

Running cheaper cars

Car experts and market research has given us all the relevant data. Here are some key insights:

managing-debt-pink-bullet Smaller engines can be cheaper

managing-debt-pink-bullet Petrol cars can be cheaper than diesel cars

managing-debt-pink-bullet Manual cars are cheaper than automatic vehicles

managing-debt-pink-bullet Hybrid and electric vehicles cost more upfront but less to run

managing-debt-pink-bullet Check the CO2 emissions as this will affect your road tax

managing-debt-pink-bullet Smaller vehicles are cheaper to insure

What’s the best time to buy?

How do you know what is the best time to buy a used car. Car dealers will have their own sales targets to meet. These are generally based on quarterly sales, the end of a sales quarter is a good time to buy, look for late March, June, September, and December. It may be easier to negotiate during this period.

Private sellers won’t have these targets as they will only sell for a price they’re happy with, it’s a good idea to ask them the reason they’re selling as you may be able to find out how quickly they want to sell the vehicle. Check the prices of any vehicles you’re looking at over a number of months to understand the market value better. Try to avoid a busy period such as weekends or the beginning of a new month as many prospective buyers will be there as they have just been paid.

Car needs checklist

Think about what needs your next car must meet. If you’re a family of five, you will want to avoid a two-door sports car. Think about the following:

managing-debt-green-bullet Essential requirements

managing-debt-green-bullet Specific needs

managing-debt-green-bullet Short distance city car or long-distance highway car

managing-debt-green-bullet Petrol or diesel

managing-debt-green-bullet Boot size / storage space

managing-debt-green-bullet Considering going green, eco-friendly hybrid or electric car

Selling your current vehicle

You may want to sell your current car to help reduce the purchase price of your next vehicle. You can either opt for part exchange or choose to sell it privately.

Part exchange will save you time and having to deal with potential buyers but you will get a lot less from this method. Selling privately will take more time and effort but you have a number of advertising platforms online to choose from. However, this will help you earn a lot more from a potential sale, on average you may receive an additional 10 to 20% compared to part exchanging.

What will it cost you?

Carbuyer, Parkers, and What Car? are a few great places to research prices. You need to look at the upfront and reoccurring costs involved. Look for:

managing-debt-blue-bullet Upfront price (paying in full or financing)

managing-debt-blue-bullet Monthly finance instalment plan

managing-debt-blue-bullet Fuel costs

managing-debt-blue-bullet Car insurance

managing-debt-blue-bullet Road tax

managing-debt-blue-bullet MOT and servicing

managing-debt-blue-bullet Parking

managing-debt-blue-bullet Further maintenance

Look at many different car dealerships to compare prices, this will help you find a better deal. Search online before visiting, this can help you create a targeted shortlist and save you time.

It’s quick and simple to get an online quote with Utility Saving Expert. We compare all the leading insurers to help you find the best deal.


When you’re purchasing goods from stores, you won’t have the option to negotiate a price in most scenarios. This is the total opposite when buying a used car. Rule number one: never agree to the list price, the salesman is able to negotiate a lower price with you in most cases and this will help them feel like they’re giving you a discount.

Carry out your research beforehand, know the typical value of a specific car including the age and mileage you are targeting. Be confident to say ‘no’ if you want to get a better deal.

Checklist for used cars

You need to look at many different aspects when buying a used car. This is because you want to ensure everything is in order before handing over your hard-earned money. You will want information on the following:

managing-debt-pink-bullet Current mileage

managing-debt-pink-bullet Overall condition

managing-debt-pink-bullet Previous repair history

managing-debt-pink-bullet Engine checks

managing-debt-pink-bullet Oil checks

managing-debt-pink-bullet Test the lights

managing-debt-pink-bullet Do the electronics work (radio, CD player, Bluetooth, built in satellite navigation)

managing-debt-pink-bullet Safety checks

managing-debt-pink-bullet Tyres

Test drive time

It’s a good idea to take the opportunity to test drive the vehicle, after all, you want to make sure you’re happy with your purchase for the foreseeable future. Consider these points:

managing-debt-blue-bullet Is the driving wheel position comfortable?

managing-debt-blue-bullet If you have young children, do child seats fit well

managing-debt-blue-bullet Test within cities and on a motorway if given the opportunity

managing-debt-blue-bullet Double check the brakes

managing-debt-blue-bullet Are the brakes and clutch responsive?

managing-debt-blue-bullet Is the car balanced or does it veer?

managing-debt-blue-bullet Are you able to easily open the car bonnet, boot and all doors

managing-debt-blue-bullet Is there enough room for passengers?

managing-debt-blue-bullet Is the car powerful enough?

managing-debt-blue-bullet How does the engine sound, any unexpected noises (buzzing or rattling)

managing-debt-blue-bullet Check the suspension when going over bumps and cornering

Optional extras

Only pay for optional extras if they are essential. Car dealers will try to upsell you on upgraded models. Things like Bluetooth, cruise control, heated leather seats, satellite navigation and custom sound systems are optional. Some of these features are becoming more common.

Think about what’s important to you, what you will actually use and what will make your car journey a more enjoyable experience.

Car insurance and road tax

Once you have decided on which car to buy, remember to get car insurance cover in place before you drive away. You are now responsible for the vehicle and will want to protect your new purchase, also it’s illegal to drive within the UK without car insurance. Some dealers may give you the option to purchase short term car insurance, this can sometimes cost more.

It’s a good idea to get a quote from your current provider and an online comparison website to get the most competitive deal. Road tax is not transferred from the previous owner. You will need ensure you have this before you take ownership.

Additional checklist

managing-debt-blue-bullet Logbook or V5C

managing-debt-blue-bullet Car service booklet

managing-debt-blue-bullet Manuals

managing-debt-blue-bullet Spare wheel and toolkit

managing-debt-blue-bullet Additional key

managing-debt-blue-bullet Sale of purchase contract

Utility Saving Expert compares all the leading car insurance providers for you. It’s quick and simple to get an online quote within minutes.

If you found this guide to be helpful, check out our blog for other helpful buyer guides.