There has probably never been a better time to buy a used car. Certainly not in the last 20-30 years. Sale volumes have plummeted and dealers are under pressure to shift stock and clear backlogs like never before.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that when you buy a secondhand car from a dealer, you will be dealing with an experienced salesman who knows every possible trick when it comes to maximising his (or her) margin.
You, on the other hand, will probably not be an expert on the used car trade or the veteran of hundreds of previous car sales.
The important thing is to do your research, act confident and lose all your inhibitions when it comes time to haggle.
- Do your research before you start looking. Use a service like Glass’s Guide (what the trade use) or Parkers to find out about the car you are thinking of buying and get an estimate of its correct secondhand value. Also check the trade value of your existing car, if you want to part-exchange it.
- Fix your budget – finance the purchase yourself if possible (with a personal loan, for example) so that you can be a cash buyer when you go to the car dealer.
- Keep a neutral face when you inspect the car but make a mental (or paper if necessary) note of any faults you can find.
- Inspect the paperwork and history for the car. Has it been serviced on schedule? Is it due a service, MOT or periodic maintenance task like a cambelt?
- Test drive the car. The salesman will try to chat with you during the drive, they will talk about everything under the sun to stop you focusing on the drive and to try and get you closer to a deal. Feel free to ignore them or give one-word answers. The test drive is for your benefit – make the most of it.
- Know the price you want to pay for the car and choose a figure that is well below that. Start your bargaining there. Carefully introduce any faults or overdue servicing requirements you find as bargaining tools.
- The salesman will try to confuse the issue by talking about your part exchange and the “cost of change” (the difference between the car’s sale price and the part-ex value). Tell him you want to establish a cash price first and then you will decide whether to part exchange.
- Continue haggling until you feel you have reached the best price possible. Then ask what he will offer you in part exchange for your car. Expect a low offer, haggle if you feel it is particularly outrageous.
- Finally, once you have agreed a sale price and a part-ex value, see if you can persuade him to add in any extra goodies – a tank of fuel, a year’s tax, some rubber mats, a service or MOT – anything except cash!
Congratulations. You will probably have sweated a bit, but you should have got a reasonably good deal. Now enjoy it – not everyone manages to do as well as this.