12 things to do before you buy a used car
Buying a used car is a big deal. I would argue it is a bigger deal than buying a new one.
That might sound silly as the latter usually costs a lot more than the former. But with a new car you are getting (hopefully anyway) a pristine product.
With a used car you are getting the handover of something others have used or abused.
If things go wrong with a new car, you have a warranty for at least a couple of years.
If a used car gives trouble it may, considering that six-month warranties are fairly common now, let you down when you most need it.
But there is no need to get the impression that all secondhand cars are problem traps.
Buy the right one from the right source - and I am not an advocate of buying privately, I much prefer you to buy from a dealer where there is backup - and you can have the least costly form of motoring around.
For a start you don't have to worry nearly as much about the high level of depreciation that so often accompanies new car purchases.
I know lots of people steadily buy three-year-old cars for that very reason. Choose carefully and it can be a big saver on your motoring costs.
Anyway, here are 12 things I think would be of use to make sure you get as sound a deal as possible when buying secondhand:
1. Buy from someone you know, preferably a local dealer whom you can trust. This is so, so important. Please don't take any risks.
2. Check out newspapers and websites to get a good idea of what the car you are thinking of is worth.
3. Do the same to gauge the value of your own car if you are trading in against a newer model.
4. Make sure you have plenty of room to manoeuvre on your financial commitments if you are borrowing to fund your new purchase.
Err on the side of caution.
5. If buying from a private source be extra careful. Your rights are not nearly as strong or far-reaching in such a scenario as they would be with a garage. So be careful. Insist on seeing the car in good daylight - and at the seller's home or premises.
Do not part with a cent until you are happy the car and its seller are legit. You'd be surprised the scams that can be, and are being, perpetrated.
6. Most garages will give you a guarantee - the length depends on the age of the car. You get no such undertaking from a private buyer - maybe in rare cases you might. That is why it is vital to get a mechanic you trust to check it over. You should check the car's documentation to make sure everything is in order. Most of all go through the service history. That is critical. If there are gaps at all walk away; it spells trouble.
7. Don't get hung up on the price a garage/buyer is offering you for your own car. Concentrate fully on what it is costing you to change.
One garage might tell you your car is worth €5,000; another might say he/she is 'giving' you €6,000. Sounds like that is a better deal. However, the latter may be quoting you €15,000 for the newer car while the former may be €1,200 lower.
The cost-to-change rule means your best deal most likely lies with the former even though he/she is offering less for your trade-in. Be clinical on this. You'd be amazed at how people take personal affront that someone has 'snubbed' their lovely little trade-in.
It's a balancing act and only one thing matters: how much you have to part with.
8. It might be better to sell your car privately if it is quite old or has big mileage. You may take a hit on the price - though if it is that old it is unlikely to be worth an awful lot in the first place. But you will have far more buying power as a cash customer with no trade-in baggage.
9. Don't buy a car you love unless it happens to be the car you absolutely need as well. People fall in love with a car and end up regretting they didn't go with the one that fitted their needs far more. Give yourself a 'cooling off' period of two days.
10. By all means haggle and bargain but remember dealers have to make a bit of a margin too. They have to stand over the car, carry the cost of repairs, etc. So drive a hard bargain but don't overdo it. The dealer could just say 'no' and then you have to either swallow your pride or leave it.
11. If you have the slightest doubt about any aspect of a car or seller just walk away. I can't emphasise that enough.
12. Do not be rushed into any decision. There will be plenty of other cars, plenty of other choices and plenty of other sellers. If someone is rushing you, there is something wrong. A professional will never do that and will always give you time.