Where to buy a car

motoring_feature_wheretobuyThe pros and cons of the main ways you can buy a car

The chances are you’ll do some research and decide on the make and model you want to buy first rather than choose a seller and then select a car from the stock they’ve got available.

Nevertheless, it pays to have an idea of the pros and cons of the different types of dealer you can buy a car from.

Try to buy local

It’s best to buy local if you can – a 200 mile round trip to buy a car may seem worth it as a one-off to bag a bargain, but won’t look so attractive if you subsequently have to take the car back to have the dealer fix a fault that came to light a few weeks after you bought it.


If you buy from a dealer you’ll enjoy maximum legal protection and least risk. There are different types of dealer though so some may suit your own needs better than others.

Franchise dealers

Likely to be the most expensive choice, but vehicle preparation, warranty and after sales should be top-notch:

  • Product expertise thanks to close links to car manufacturer(s)
  • Best for a rare or unusual model from a particular manufacturer
  • Manufacturer-backed approved used car schemes
  • Manufacturer backed warranty
  • Part exchange may be possible

Independent dealer

Covering a wide range of businesses from large groups with multiple sites right across the country to small, one-man-bands working from home.

  • Not tied to a single manufacturer
  • Some may specialise – single make, sports cars, nearly new, older cars, high mileage, low mileage, ex-fleet etc.
  • Prices likely to be better than franchise dealer – but may not offer the same aftersales support.
  • Part exchange may be possible

Car supermarket

19163689Offering a huge amount of choice across multiple makes and models on a single site.

  • Low pressure sell – but less scope for negotiation on price
  • The best way to check out a range of models if you can’t make your mind up
  • Part exchange may be possible

Buying privately

You have limited legal rights and little come back if faults come to light when you buy privately so it’s a matter of ‘buyer beware’.

  • It’s up to you to inspect the car thoroughly and check its history – consider a car data check and independent vehicle inspection
  • Insurance for test drives can be an issue – check your policy and the seller’s to make sure you’re covered
  • Watch out for dealers posing as private sellers

Buying at auction

If you’re going to buy at auction you really need to know your way around cars – or take someone with you who does. It’s a good idea to go along as an observer first to get the hang of how things work.

  • Very limited legal rights
  • The auction will have their own terms and conditions of business
  • You’re buying ‘as seen’ – no come back if there are problems
  • Test drives and part exchange not available
  • Easy to get carried away and go over budget or buy something on the spur of the moment that you may regret later.


Your legal rights will depend on the type of entity you’re dealing with i.e. whether it is a dealer or a private seller.

  • It’s not always clear who you’re dealing with
  • Limited or no opportunity to inspect the car before you buy

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