When to buy
Back in 1999, new car registrations switched from annual to twice yearly. This was designed to take pressure off the motor industry, which struggled to accommodate the massive once-a-year upsurge of buyers, all clamouring to get their hands on new cars with the latest registration plate. Thankfully, things are a little different now, but the 1st March new registration still drives a huge spike in sales. Consequently, many dealers receive loads of used cars in part exchange and the good news for buyers is that this oversupply of second-hand motors makes March the ideal time to find a bargain.
Where to buy
An authorised dealer is the lowest-risk option when buying a used car, as these “approved used” models often come with a comprehensive warranty and benefit from a thorough pre-sales mechanical check. But this extra peace of mind usually comes at a price, because main dealers are generally a little more expensive than non-franchised dealerships. It’s also worth looking at the big car supermarkets, which pack in lots of cars at competitive prices. But as they operate at tighter profit margins that main dealers, don’t expect to haggle much off the screen price. In fact, many won’t budge at all because their cars are already “priced to sell”. If you’re looking for a bargain-basement older vehicle, buying from a private seller can save you a tidy sum. But remember, this is probably the riskiest way to buy a car, because there’s very little comeback once you’ve handed over your cash and driven away. And if your new motor breaks down before you get home, there’s not much you can do about it.
How to buy
Compared to brand new car purchasers, used car buyers generally rely less on hire purchase and dealer finance, and more on personal loans to finance their new motor. But used car leasing is an increasingly popular option, offering drivers fixed-monthly-fee motoring, inclusive of maintenance and servicing. However, there is a downside, because although some leasing deals may look very attractive, strict mileage limits apply, with any excess charged at 10 pence or more per mile. Plus, you’ll face further charges for any marks or scratches on the bodywork. So, what looks like a good deal can have a sting in the tail when you come to the end of the contract.