VCARS Guide to Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car can be a daunting experience, especially if it’s your first time. In this guide we are going to give you some advice that we have gathered from our experience and the experience of our trusted dealers.

Buying Used Cars GuideThings to be considered are:
Finding your next car
12 Questions to ask
HPI Checks
Does the car have warranty?
Bringing an expert
Checking the paperwork
Road Tax
Paying for the car
Haggling
Research
Avoiding online scams

Finding your next car

VCARS.co.uk offers you a way of buying your next car from a reputable dealer. Most cars have some form of warranty and our dealers offer excellent service and value. Our cars are nationwide, you can search and compare prices from both independant and franchised dealer networks.
There are two ways to search for cars on VCARS.co.uk.

  1. Search by specific make & model of a car (e.g. Ford Focus)
  2. Search by body style (Family cars or 4×4)

Once you choose what search you would like to perform, enter your postcode, how far you are prepared to travel and price range. You can also define which type of fuel you would like your new car to run on and what sort of gear box you would like. Finally you can add a keyword that may help narrow your search down (e.g. air con or GTi that may be more specific to what you’re looking for).

Our search results are fast and accurate so if you are searching for Family cars priced between £9,000 and £11,000 with an automatic gearbox within 30 miles of SG12 8HN then thats exactly what you get.

If we can’t match your search exactly then you can either try searching again or we will try and expand your search by either increasing your price range OR how far you are prepared to travel.

Once you have your results, you can click on a car to view more details about that vehicle. These cars are displayed to give you enough information for you to either enquire about a car (via the telephone number or email form) OR go direct to that dealership and have a look for yourself. If you click the view directions button we will give you a printable page to print directions to that dealership. Please remember to let that dealer know that you found your new car via VCARS.co.uk!

We do encourage you to call the dealership to let them know you are interested in the car as they may be able to offer promotions direct to you on the phone.

Remember car dealers source cars. Just because they don’t have exactly what you are after ring them up and see what they can do. They are there to sell you a car, not for you to buy a car from them.

Using VCARS.co.uk, you can compare prices of cars across the UK. Even if a car is 100’s of miles away, often dealers are happy to deliver the vehicle to you to either purchase or test drive but please call the dealer and see. Car dealers are willing to help you buy cars so don’t be afraid to ask.

Sometimes dealers are seen as sneaky and dodgy, Arhur Daily types. Times have changed. Dealers are there to help you get the car you need, the internet is a minefield of data and buyers are now armed with all the information they need to get the right car at the right price.

Questions to ask

Buying a car can be a scary experience for some people. You part with a lot of your hard earned money, but often find yourself in need of financing to be able to afford the car you want. When you make a decision to buy make sure it’s right for you.

Here are an example of 12 questions that you should ask a seller about the car:

  1. How many owners has the car had from new?
    • Usually the less the better. If you buy from an individual you can guage from how that person presents him/herself to how well they treats him/her car.
  2. Does the car have full dealer service history?
    • A car with full dealer service history means that car has been maintained by an approved franchised dealer. Full service history means that it has been serviced regularly. Some service history means it has been maintained but may not have been done at every service interval. Service recipts are desirable as they are proof what work has been done. You can use this to see if known faults with particular cars have been fixed.
  3. When is the MOT due?
    • The longer the better. Cars older than 3 years legally require an MOT every 12 months. Recipts for work done show that an owner has carefully looked after their car.
  4. How much tax does the car have?
    • Tax can cost upto £800 per year. Each month extra can add up. It’s good to haggle for up to date tax if it’s running close to renewal.
  5. Does the car come with any warranties and what do they cover?
    • Cars less than 3 years old may have some manufacturer warranties left over. Main dealers will also offer some kind of warranty. Make sure you know what’s covered and what isn’t.
  6. What is the annual road tax for this car?
    • If you are unsure make sure you ask the seller what the tax is for the car.
  7. What insurance group is it?
    • Cars will have an insurance group between 1 and 20 with 20 being the most expensive to insure and 1 being the cheapest. Always get an insurance quote before you buy a car as it is generally the biggest running cost after fuel on a used car.
  8. Does it have a category 1 alarm or immobiliser?
    • Your insurance may require a car to have an immobiliser, tracker or a cat 1 alarm. Check that you know the requirements before you buy the car. If it has better security that you need for your insurance purposes this may actually reduce your insurance.
  9. What MPG does the car return?
    • What will your fuel costs be? How economical is this car. Some cars are surprisingly expensive to run, make sure the running costs fit within your budget as fuel is not getting any cheaper!
  10. Does it have a full spare wheel or is it a space saver?
    • To cut costs down, cars nowadays have a space saver spare wheel. These are only to be used to get you to a tyre fitter to replace it. A full spare wheel can be used as a direct replacement meaning you can get your puncture repaired at a time suitable to you. If you have alloy wheels and the spare is a ‘jamie dodger’ it will affect your car’s handling, balancing & fuel economy.
  11. Can you tell me anything about the Euro NCAP ratings about this car?
    • Should the worse happen and you have an accident, how safe is your car? If you have children you want to make sure the car is as safe as can be for your precious cargo.
  12. What safety features does it have?
    • Does it have airbags? Side impact protection? Roll over bar for a convertible?

Has the car had a HPI check?

A HPI check will show you that the vehicle has no outstanding finance owed on it and confirm that it hasn’t been written off.

Does the car have any warranties?

Generally a car that is less than 3 years old will have some of the manufacturers warranty left over. This is especially handy if anything ‘big’ goes wrong with the car as you will have protection diret from the maker of the car. Most dealers offer some kind of warrantty for a used car on their forecourt, even if it is over 3 years old. Be aware that warranties don’t cover everything and you need to check exactly what is covered. If you are not sure ask the dealer directly. Please note that smaller and independant dealers or cars over 3 years old are not likely to have any warranties. Remember always check the paper work.

Bring an expert

You are buying a used car, feel free to bring an expert along who knows about cars to help you see if the car is good value or if there is anything potentially that may go wrong with the car. Dealers can’t always see what may go wrong with a car but a mechanic might.

Check your local yellow pages or search online for a reputabe mechanic that offers a check over service. Most mechanics will offer a detailed review of a car for around £100. It may seem a lot but they know what they are looking for and are obliged to let you know potential problems. In the long run it could pay for itself many times over.

Check the log book service history

Your car should have a log book and a service history. For cars less than 8 years old it is highly desirable that they have been serviced regularly at a franchised dealership. This will often appear in classified ads as FDSH or FSH (Full Dealer Service History OR Full Service History). Full Dealer Service History indicates every service was carried out at an approved franchised dealership. Make sure both major and minor services have been filled on time. You will see a dealer stamp on each occasion and it should be signed with the actual mileage.

If you bring an expert as detailed above they will know what to look for, like ‘has the cam belt been replaced recently’. Make sure you can see the V5 log book, it should specify how many owners the car has had and only accept the original document. This is the ownership document.

Check the price

You should already have used our site to check that the car is competitively priced. Dealers obviously have profit in their car so don’t be affraid to haggle!

Make sure the car has some road tax

Check how much tax the vehicle has. Some 4×4 cars cost £715 per year to tax – a car with 9 months tax against a car with 3 months tax works out to quite a bit of money!

Test driving a car

When testing a car, you will probably have the dealer or seller with you and they will be talking about all the great things the car has. Try to keep them quiet. A good idea is to get into the car thinking you are NOT buying this car. Make the car sell itself to you. Listen for things that don’t sound right- make sure everything feels right. You will probably be taken for a test drive on a route that’s not even similar to your daily commute. If you do lots of motorway miles try and find a nice steady route where you can get the car into top gear and feel how the car feels in that situation. If you drive through the center of London every day, try and find some traffic or hold ups where you can make sure the clutch isn’t going to snap your left foot off.

Feel how the car reacts to braking and accelerating. Do the gear changes feel smooth? Driving the car you will get a better perspective of the condition than just looking round the car when it’s been polished in a showroom. Do the seats have excessive wear for their age? Is the steering wheel to light? Try and find several difficult roads to pull out from. Those nice sweeping A pillars might look gorgous but they are no use if you can’t see anything on a roundabout.

Paying for your car

Never, I repeat, NEVER pay for a car in cash unless you are driving the car away from the deal. There are several online scams which are based around setting up ficticious companies with cars they scrape from websites. They price cars VERY cheaply then take payment online or over the phone or by bank transfer. They prey on peoples greed. If it looks too cheap then it’s likely to be that way for a very good reason – it’s a scam. Unless you can go to see the car, test drive it and take it home when you give them the cash then it’s not a deal, walk away. If it looks fishy, smells fishy and tastes fishy – it’s probably fish!

Most cars will require finance. Don’t feel you have to take this from a dealer, you can get loans from many places; although, nowadays they are more scarce than in previous years. The best things here is to shop around for the best rate.

From banks you will generally get a straight finance deal where you make set payments over a period of time. Once you reach the end of the loan agreement you have fully paid for the car. Alternatively, you can get HP loan deals from banks for cars where there is a ‘baloon’ payment at the end of an agreed period. You can then pay the full baloon figure or set up a new agreement to take the amount owing down to £0. The idea behind this is you sell the car after a set period and that should roughly work out to the amount of the baloon payment.

When considering dealer finance there are many options available to you. There are many types of finance package but roughly speaking they are just more ways of doing the same thing.

The three main types of finance package are:

Lease purchase – These deals work where you need to put down a small deposit and make smaller monthly payments. You have a baloon payment at the end of the period. Many of these deals are unregulated finance agreements meaning that when you sign on the dotted line you own the vehicle. You are likely to have to make the baloon payment OR take out an extended loan on the vehicle if it is worth less than the baloon payment at the end of the period.

Hire purchase – These are generally regulated agreements. Again, you make a deposit and set monthly payments. There is also a baloon payment BUT at the end of the period you can usually have the option to hand the vehicle back OR pay the balloon payment. Usually under these deals you don’t legally own the vehicle until you have made the balloon payment. It remains the property of the credit agency. Regulated HP agreements often fall under the protection of ‘halves and thirds’ – that is once you have paid a third of the total amount of credit borrowed as stated in the agreement. They can not simply take the car back if you fail to make payments. Once you have paid half the payments back you are entitled to hand the keys back to the finance company. Many people take advantage of this situation that may look like a ‘loophole’.

Contract Hire –  This is a straight lease. You pay a deposit then set payments for an agreed period of time. Once this is over they collect the vehicle. You never own the vehicle in this instance.

When looking at finance options be sensible, always stick within your budget and shop around. Remember, when talking to dealers they have area to move on both the value of the vehicle and the guaranteed value of the vehicle at the end of the period ‘the balloon’ so don’t take the first offer they make as read. Use your negotiating skills!

Research

Shop around, search on Google. I am sure you found this site by searching for something on Google. Get all the information you can about a vehicle. A Porsche 2009 911 C4 for example could be a Generation 1 or Generation 2 (the updated version). Make sure you know exactly which you are after as the newer versions will have more power, better standard features and are usually worth more. Research what the known problems are with the car you are looking at. For example, Older Landrover Freelanders had known head gasket problems. I googled the issue and if I was to purchase on, I would make sure that it had the work done to fix it.

You will be surprised that showing the dealer a little knowledge will help go a long way on the negotiating table.

Shop around for finance deals. Check Moneysupermarket.com for reviews of both dealers, manufaturers and banks. See who offers the best rate for the finance package that suits you.

Search for buyers guides specific to the car you are after. Owners’ clubs and forums are filled with information that may seem dull to anyone else but look for snippets of information that may help you buy the right car for you.

Get as much information as you can about the type of car you want to buy. You should know:

  • What are the main problems with the car?
  • How economical is it?
  • What are the service intervals and how much does a standard service cost?
  • What price should I expect to pay both privately and from a dealer?

Once you know about a particular car, when you are looking to buy a specific car you should want to know:

  • Has the car had any recalls or services to fix the major problems?
  • How many miles has the car done?
  • What’s the service history? When is it due it’s next service? When is the tax due?
  • Has it had any repairs?
  • How much discount can you give me?

The idea of the last question is that you would want to get a dealership car for private money! (Don’t understand this?)

Haggling

Bartering with a dealer on price is something that people often do not find themselves comfortable with. When it comes to haggling, there are some rules to remember.

  • Dealers have profit in the price listed on the windscreen. They price cars up based on buyers haggling so they will almost always accept a reasonable deal.
  • Be reasonable. It’s unlikely they will drop half the price. A dealer is likely to have around £500 – £1500 profit in a car. You are likely to be viewing a car based on the fact that you are happy with the list price so expect the dealer to make some proft and be happy to get money off of a price you were happy to pay in the first place.
  • Do your homework. Know how much similar cars are going for and what options are desirable. You can’t barter if you dont know what a realistic price is. If a model without Sat-Nav is £500 cheaper you have a basis to argue for a discount.
  • Take a punt. Nothing ventured nothing gained. A dealer will make it hard for you to feel comfortable asking for discounts, but don’t let that stop you. If you are happy to pay the list price then any discount you can negotiate is a bonus.
  • The best time to haggle is once you have seen the vehicle. When you look a car over and test drive it don’t give anything away. Let the seller sell you the car. Once you have had a good look around and are happy that you want to buy the car then ask them what they will take for it. If they are happy to do a deal on the price they will either tell you the lowest price they will take or they will ask you what you want to pay for it.
  • It’s possible that they may not want to do a deal on price and what it’s listed at is their lowest price. Again, if you were happy to come and view at that price then you have not lost out. If they only have had the car on the forecourt for 2 days then they might not need to drop the price just yet.
  • If a dealer asks you to make an offer, make them a reasonable offer and judge their reaction. If they don’t accept then tell them they know what you want to pay so it’s their turn to say what they want for it.

Haggling is a natural act for some people- they do it without fear or embarassment. Some people do not find it comfortable at all. But by following a few simple rules it’s not something to worry about.

Remember, be reasonable, accept a discount as a bonus & always remember – if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Using the internet to buy a car

The internet is a completely safe way to find your next car. Our site combines cars from dealerships all over the country, so you can search for the right car in the right place. Your car may be slightly further than you would like to travel but if this is the case you can always ask the dealer to deliver the car to you for a test drive. If it is a franchised dealer they may be able to get a car to a closer branch to you within their network.

When you find a cars on VCARS.co.uk you will contact the dealer directly.

We do not sell cars.

We do not sell cars on behalf of our dealers.

We market our dealers cars and you enquire directly with them.

A VCARS.co.uk employee will never attempt to take payment details either over the phone or online for one of our dealers cars.

How to avoid online scams

Classified websites should be used to do research to buy used cars. Find the cheapest deal for the best car. As I have already mentioned, all the manufacturer information you could ever need about a car is only a quick Google search away. Once you know what car you are looking for, sites like VCARS.co.uk are a powerful way to find the best deals and compare cars.

The internet is a completely safe environment to find your next used car but please be sensible. Websites perpetrating to be honest sites with cars priced seemingly too cheap and branded as ‘repossessions’ are likely to be fake. Be particularly aware of any website that tries to take money before you have even seen the car.

This is not a guarantee never to buy a dodgy car but just some advice that may help. Fraudsters are a lot more sophisticated now than random emails about freeing the prince of Nigeria’s bank account.

Making Payment
I have said over and again, never make any wire payments, hand over any cash or sign any paperwork until you are completely satisfied that both the seller and the car are genuine.

Price
If it looks too cheap there is probably a reason. Compare prices and get a deal. Don’t get blinded by what you think is a bargain though. There are plenty of online tools to value cars, make sure you know the correct guide price for the car you want.

Viewing
Make sure you see the car before any deal is done. If you view a car online make sure you know the cars registration number and possibly VIN number from the seller. Do a HPI check before entering into any agreement to make sure you know the history of the car. Often scam websites will use bogus images of cars, you may even be able to match the registration from the image on the website to what you are provided.

Do not take cash with you if you are in any way unsure of a seller and arrange to view the car at the registered address of the dealer or the individual at daytime. It’s not wise to view a car in an abandoned warehouse in Moss Side at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Make sure the seller has all the paperwork. The V5 document (log book) and the service history. Google what you need to look for if you are not sure. Research research research!

Fast sale
Many scams revolve around an individual seller having a top of the range car they have to sell quickly because they are leaving the country. It relies on people getting greedy and glossing over the obvious – if someone needed to sell a car quickly they would let a friend sell it for them, take it to a dealer or more likely take it with them!

Final note

When buying a car, you are usually pretty safe if you do your homework. Know about the car you are buying. Get upfront information about the car and HPI check the vehicles status. View the car, always try before you buy and preferably take someone who knows about cars and engines to give it a look over. Be sure about your budget and how you are paying for a car. Never hand over money until you are competely happy and are about to take the keys.

Happy motoring!

The VCARS.co.uk team

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