The Ultimate Guide To Buying A Used Car

If you’re looking to buy a used car, it’s important to make sure you are fully informed about the condition of the vehicle.

When Is The Right Time To Buy A Used Car?

If you’re looking at a car with a private seller rather than with a dealer there will always be less scope for a good deal. A private seller, after all, is only looking to sell his car and not to meet sales targets as dealers do. With a dealer, it may be easier to drive a hard bargain, especially in some particular parts of the year.

Car dealers have sales targets to meet, usually, these targets are based on a quarterly time frame. Dealers will often make an extra push for sales at the end of each quarter to hit the target or even break it. That means you can normally get the best deals towards the end of each quarter in March, June, September, and December. Make sure not to leave it too late, though, as dealers may have already hit their targets by then and will be less inclined to do a deal.

Also, use to your advantage times that are traditionally slow in terms of sales. Generally, dealers are more inclined to negotiate during summer holidays or around Christmas. During those times there will be less potential buyers around.

Also, bear in mind that there is an ideal time to buy certain cars. Whilst it is an appealing idea to jump on the bandwagon common knowledge is that autumn or winter is normally the time to get the best deal on a convertible. At this time sellers will find it much hard to sell these cars than in summer.

Discussing Other Benefits

If you’re buying from a dealer it’s worth pushing the salesman a bit further than the deals offered. For example, ask for any warranty and financing options available. It may just be that you could walk away with a much better deal than you thought! Just remember, dealers have sales targets to meet, and options will be available to them to help them sell more cars.

Walking Away

If you’re not happy with the deal offered, it might be good to retreat and simply walk away. If the deal just isn’t right it’s worth just leaving it and looking for another car. Just remember, if you can’t find another car you like, you can always return to the initial car. A seller may have changed their mind by then.

Of course, if the seller just fails to address any concerns raised about the condition of the car then chances are the seller wants to hide something on his car. In those cases, it’s good to just walk away, keep in mind that there are always other cars around.

Our 4 top tips to keep in mind before buying a used car:

  1. Keep your options open

    The first step is to research the resale prices for the car model you have in mind. Make sure you shop around and find a couple of cars of the same model for sale and arrange to view them. That way you can compare the condition of each of the cars and get a feel on whether they are worth the money. It’s a good idea to check a few cars, instead of going for the first car you see.

  2. Checking vehicle details

    The DVLA has a free online vehicle information checker. You’ll need the registration number of the vehicle to access this. The information provided should match the seller’s information. The checker will also provide past results of MOTs done in England, Scotland or Wales since 2005 where applicable.

  3. Take it for a test drive 

    Driving the car can help highlight problems that you would simply just not notice when the car is stationary. Strange noises like squeaks or clunks can indicate that there is something wrong with the car which usually warrants further inspection. Check our guide on test driving a used car for more tips on how to make the most of a test drive.

  4. Get a pre-purchase inspection

    Before you commit to buying the car, it is recommended that you have a pre-purchase inspection carried out by a professional. After all, it is a significant investment and you’d want to ensure you’re aware of any potential issues the vehicle might have. The technician will conduct a thorough, unbiased review of the vehicle’s condition and will help you understand if you’re getting good value for money.

ClickMechanic can help with a Pre-Purchase Inspection, with three different levels of inspection to suit your needs. A pre-purchase inspection report will be sent to you which thoroughly outlines the condition of the car so you can be confident you’re making the right purchase.

Once you’ve bought the car, what’s the best way to minimise the effects of depreciation?

Did you know that new cars can lose around 20% of their value in the first year after it was bought, and will lose around 50% of their initial value in the first three years of ownership? In fact, cars lose value the moment they’re driven off the dealer forecourt.

While there’s not much you can do to fully prevent depreciation as a car owner, however, there are a few ways you can maximise the resale value of your vehicle.

5 ways to minimise the effects of car depreciation

  1. Pay Attention to the Mileage

    One way to limit depreciation is to keep the mileage under the average miles per annum. The more miles you have on your odometer, the more likely it will be that it will depreciate in value.

  2. Clean Up

    Make it a part of your routine to keep your car clean which will prevent building up of grime and unpleasant odours inside the car. Keeping your car clean and tidy and in great condition will help limit depreciation.

  3. Avoid Non-Standard Modifications

    As exciting as an aftermarket body kit or a new set of aftermarket alloy wheels may sound, it can tend to narrow down the pool of potential buyers for your car in the future, making it harder to sell and most likely driving down its value.

  4. Maintain Your Car

    A full-service history gives potential buyers peace of mind. Remember to keep all your car documents including service records and receipts. The recommendation is that drivers should service their car every 12 months or every 12,000 miles. However, you should check your owner’s handbook for the vehicle and follow the advice it gives on servicing. At ClickMechanic, we provide three levels of servicing – an interim, full or major service.

  5. Research Before Selling

    If you’re looking to get the best price for your car, consider doing a bit of research to see what’s the best time to sell your car. For example, convertibles tend to be in higher demand during the summer months.

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What are the most common issues with used cars?

Did you know that according to Auto Trader, used car prices have risen by a record 11% in June 2021? With used car prices expected to rise further, it’s even more important to ensure you’re making the right investment. A pre-purchase inspection by a professional mechanic can help identify issues on a vehicle by checking a range of working aspects of a used car.

In fact, when we looked at our data for pre-purchase inspections, we found that 50% of used cars will score poorly in at least one category during a pre-purchase inspection. Seeing the price increase means it’s all the more reason to get a vehicle thoroughly checked before buying!

Although different models and makes of cars can have unique problems, here are some of the most common problems you should look out for when buying a used car:

Electricals

According to our data, issues with controls and electrical components of the vehicles were a common factor that led to 23% of the vehicle scoring poorly on inspection.

As obvious as this may seem, it’s wise to check that headlights and other indicators are functioning properly. Additionally, it’s a good idea to check other features like the warning lights on the dashboard, the power windows, and the central locking.

Suspension and brakes

Our data found that 12% of used cars scored poorly on suspension and braking systems. If you want to check for potential suspension problems, take it on a drive on different types of road surfaces such as speed bumps and rough surfaces. If you hear rattles or strange knocking sounds, it could mean that the suspension needs attention. However, the best way to ensure there are no issues with the suspension and braking is to have a trusted mechanic do a thorough inspection of the vehicle.

Battery

With cars being left unused for prolonged periods of time during the last 18 months, it is likely that battery health has suffered leading to battery problems. Batteries do not like being left uncharged as the cells inside disintegrate and lose their capacity. The battery may recharge to 12.8v but the actual power is significantly reduced.

Wheels and Tyres

We found that 23% of used cars scored poorly with regards to wheels and tyres during the inspection. Issues such as alloy wheel damage and uneven tyre tread are things to look out for and maybe costly to put right.

GETTING A PROFESSIONAL INSPECTION

ClickMechanic can help with a Pre-Purchase Inspection, with three different levels of inspection to suit your needs, starting from £53.68. During a pre-purchase inspection, the technician will conduct a thorough, unbiased review of the vehicle’s condition which can help give you an understanding of whether you’re getting good value for money. A pre-purchase inspection report will be sent to you which thoroughly outlines the condition of the car from exterior parts to crucial components of the engine and exhaust system so you can be confident you’re making the right purchase.

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Buying a Used Car: The Pre-Purchase Check

Buying A Used Car: The Pre-Purchase Check

After you have decided on which type of used car you want to buy, it’s important to check the car thoroughly. The best practice is to find a couple of cars of the same model for sale and arrange to view all of them. That way you can compare the condition of each of the cars and get a feel on whether they are worth the money. Just remember, it’s bad practice to go for the first car you see, without having seen any other car.

Checking A Used Car Before Buying

Once you have made some appointments to view the cars it’s time to prepare yourself to view the car. Checking a car and identifying any faults can be a bit daunting if you’re not quite sure what you should look out for. There’s a number of areas on the car to pay special attention to:

Checking the exterior of a car

The easiest check to do is to see if the exterior of the car, look out for any scratches or dents. Also, make sure to look out for any slight differences in terms of the paint colour. It may just be that panels have been replaced and resprayed to cover up any accidents. Also, check for any moisture underneath the car, it may just be that oil or coolant is leaking out of the car. Below are 5 recommendations for what to look out for:

  • Scratches and dents
  • Difference in paint colour
  • Scratches and cracks in the windscreen, windows, and mirrors
  • Signs of corrosion, e.g. on wheels
  • Condition of the wheels and tyres

Another good thing to check is if all lights like the headlamp, braking lights, indicators, etc are in working condition.

Checking the interior

Moving on to the car’s interior, you should pay attention to the condition of the seats and panels. While most of it is easily visible, it still makes sense to have a closer look at:

  • Seat upholstery and carpets (lift the carpet too)
  • Controls and instruments
  • Rearview mirror
  • Door locking
  • Interior lights and lights on the dash panel

Checking the engine bay

Once you have checked the interior and exterior it’s worth opening the bonnet to check the engine bay. Check if there are any signs of oil debris in and around the engine, and check for any fluid leaks. Signs of moisture or oil around the engine can mean that the engine is leaking somewhere.
Even if you are not a mechanic, these are things you can check yourself:

  • General condition and cleanliness of the engine bay
  • Signs of corrosion
  • Fluid levels, e.g. oil
  • The general condition of hoses and pipes
  • Signs of fluid leaks

The test drive

One important pre-purchase check to tick off the list as well as to test drive the car. Driving the car can show up many problems that you would simply just not notice when the car is stationary. Rattles and knocking noises can all indicate major problems.

  • Footbrake and handbrake
  • Noise level of the engine while driving as well as during idling
  • Operating the clutch and shifting into gears
  • General steering, the effort you need to put into steering, general handling the car and road stability
  • Engine efficiency, e.g. while accelerating and operation of the accelerator pedal in general

Check our guide on test driving a car for more tips on how to make the most of a test drive.

A Second Opinion

Once you have checked all the cars you selected it’s time to consider which one was the best. Consider the condition of the car and also take into account any differences in terms of recent repairs done, differences in terms of the trim levels and of course the price. On the basis of all those points, select your favourite car and decide if you really want to get it.

At this point, it’s worth checking the chosen car once more to see if there’s anything you failed to notice. Often it’s worth getting a pre-purchase inspection with a professional mechanic at this point. The mechanic would be able to check over the car in more detail and use expertise built up over many years. A mechanic can identify any underlying problems that may not be immediately obvious. That way you can pre-empt any nightmares later on. You wouldn’t want to buy a car that seems great of course but later turns out to have major problems.

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How To Test Drive A Used Car?

How to test drive a car

Figuring out how to test drive a used car can be daunting, especially if you’re looking to buy a second-hand car. You will quickly have to adapt to how the car handles. On top of that you will also have to watch out for any signs indicating a problem with the car. That said, there is a couple of easy steps to take that can help pin-point potential issues on the used car you’re looking to buy.

1. Check over the car before setting off

Once having checked over the car that you’re looking to buy inside and out it’s time to test drive the car. Once you take place in the driver seat familiarise yourself with the car. Start the car and check the instrument panel and all the switches to test if everything works. Make a note of any warning lights that show up. Also check for excessive smoke or noise coming from the bonnet.

Turn on the lights and check if they all work. Often it’s also worth pumping the brake pedal to check if it holds its pressure well. A ‘sinking pedal’ could indicate that there is a hydraulic issue (see our advice on brake problems). A final step to take before setting off is too turn the steering wheel left and right. Listen for any squeaks or clunks and make sure if everything is smooth.

2. Setting off on the test drive

Often sellers will insist on driving along when you’re on the test drive. This can be distracting of course. It’s worth to take someone else with you to keep the seller busy. That way can you can concentrate on finding faults on the car.

When driving the car, speed up slowly and listen to any strange noises like squeaks or clunks. Any noise can mean that there is something wrong with the suspension. Once you’re up to speed take note of how the car handles and whether it’s smooth. Especially when going through corners. If the car pulls to one side or doesn’t go over bumps smoothly can be signs that something isn’t quite right. Same goes if the car shakes or becomes unstable when braking.

When taking a car on a test drive always make sure to test it on a variety of roads. Try and seek out roads with good and bad road surfaces. Drive the car on the motorway and try to find roads with lots of start-stop traffic. That way you can build a better picture on how the car performs under different circumstances.

4. After the test drive

Once you have driven the car it’s important to check the car over again and check for any smoke, leaks or strange smells. It can be that some issues on the car were just not visible before you set off. If there is a burning smell it may be that there is an oil leak somewhere. If there is any smoke it may be that the engine has overheated.

3. Insurance

One very important thing not to forget when taking a used car on a test drive is to ensure that the car is insured. Remember, if the owner of the car is a private seller it’s likely that you will have to arrange insurance to drive it yourself. If you’re looking to buy from the motor trade then it’s likely insurance has already been arranged.

Often car dealerships can cover you on their insurance for the duration of the test drive. It is of course important to discuss the terms with the dealership or the private seller before the test drive.

5. Top tip

Once you have test driven the car make a note of any faults found. If you do decide to buy the car despite these issues, then use them to bargain. Make the seller aware of the problems you found when negotiating to buy the car. That way you may be able to bring the price down or get the seller to repair these issues.

That said, it might be that you do not have the confidence to test drive a used car. In that case it’s worth getting a pre-purchase inspection with a professional mechanic. Mechanics will be able to check over the car in detail. Using the expertise they have built up over many years to give an accurate appraisal of what is wrong with the vehicle.

A Mini Guide To Buying Your First Car

Whether you begin taking driving lessons at 17 or you get behind the wheel later in life, passing your driving test is a learner driver’s greatest achievement. After hours spent trying to master the art of manoeuvres, it’s time to say goodbye to the L plates and start searching for your very own set of wheels.

While buying your first car can be exciting, it can also be complicated. From choosing your make and model to getting to grips with finance deals, there are any number of things to consider – and without the necessary knowledge, it can be costly, too.

If you’re looking for some handy hints to help you on your way to owning your first run-around, our mini guide to buying your first car will get you on the road as quickly and safely as possible.

 

1. Should I buy a new car or a used car?

new-vs-new-car

Buying a new car brings with it several benefits – from reducing the risk of wear and tear to exploring your colour options, new cars can be custom-built to suit the driver. Whether storage options and seating adjustments are high on your agenda or wheel trims and in-car tech take priority, buying new means you can choose the best spec for you.

While new cars come with bags of appeal, second hand motors still hold a prominent place on the UK’s roads – proving to be an easy and efficient car-buying option. Older cars come with one or more previous owner, meaning they have more character than a brand new model and are far cheaper than used cars meaning you can get a lot more motor for your money – so choosing between a new or used car really comes down to personal preference.

Top tip: if you decide to buy a used car, make sure you book a Pre-Purchase Inspection from ClickMechanic to have an independent mechanic check the vehicle over before you seal the deal.

 

2. Should I buy a car outright or through car finance?

finance

As a first time buyer, you’ll have already shelled out a small fortune on driving lessons – so funds are likely to be a factor when considering your buying options. Buying a car outright means no monthly fees, but can be expensive – while finance allows you to spread out your payments, but can cost more in the long run.

Car finance means you could potentially opt for a newer, more expensive model, but many drivers avoid applying for car finance because they have a poor credit history and assume they will be automatically refused – however, this isn’t always the case. Finance companies will often offer flexible bad credit car finance deals – meaning you don’t have to part with a large amount of cash to secure your perfect car.

Whether you opted for an attractive finance deal or you’ve saved enough cash for the car of your dreams, the first step towards your new set of wheels is setting a realistic budget – so make sure you settle on a limit before you begin shopping around.

Top tip: don’t be swayed by attractive monthly instalment figures. Think of the cost of the car overall – taking into consideration its value and the amount you can realistically pay back.

 

3. What paperwork do I need to do?

paper-work

Once you’ve signed and paid for the car, you become responsible for tax, insurance and MOT certificates. From printing out your insurance documents to checking the address on your driving licence, failing to keep your documents up-to-date could result in a hefty fine or even legal action – so organisation is key.

If you’re buying from a dealership, short-term insurance is often offered to allow you to drive your vehicle home – where you can set up your own insurance policy – and this should be a priority. Although you no longer have to display a tax disc, your vehicle still needs to be covered – so whether you do this online or at your local post office, be timely in getting your vehicle taxed.

Top tip: keep all of your car-related documents in one place – this way, you know where everything is when it comes to renewing your insurance or arranging your next MOT.

Whether you’re a newly qualified driver or thinking about taking your driving test, following these actionable tips will help you on your way to buying your first car – meaning you’ll be ready to hit the road as soon as possible.

 

Buying a Second Hand Mercedes

Mercedes carPhoto by Oliur on Unsplash

You have probably heard the famous lyrics: ‘Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes -Benz?’ and quietly thought to yourself about how great it would be for the good Lord to benevolently reward you with a car. Unfortunately the harsh reality of these somewhat optimistic lyrics is that this won’t happen; what you can realistically do though is purchase yourself a second hand motor.

There will be some people who would be immediately put off by the ‘second hand’ aspect of car ownership, but this need not be the case. Yes, there are some key points to think through before you jump in and buy your dream vehicle, cost and condition being two of the most important. So to ensure you are completely satisfied and end up with the car you want, consider the following points:

Reliable Retailer

First and foremost, you need a reliable seller. A Mercedes is a car with prestige, so it needs to be sourced from an equally respected dealer and online selling is proving to be more popular than scouring nearby dealership forecourts.

Websites will only list vehicles from authentic retailers and won’t allow private sellers to leave falsified information – Exchange & Mart being an example which offers this honest, straightforward method.

Mileage and Models

Different classes mean different costs, in much the same way the mileage of the car can greatly affect its value. Read up about the different types of Mercedes, what the plusses and minuses are for each and more significantly how higher mileage and fuel type affect their running.

Cost, Condition and Care

After you’ve sourced an appropriate seller and decided on the type of Mercedes you want, the three Cs of ‘cost’ ‘condition’ and ‘care’ will be at the forefront of a buyer’s mind.

  • Cost – research the average costs of second hand cars with the some model and mileage as yours to make sure you’re in the right ballpark while at the same time shopping for insurance.
  • Condition – don’t take the car on face value. The exterior may appear pristine but be sure to ask for a comprehensive breakdown of the current state of the engine, brakes, tyres and electrics.
  • Care – ask for the full service and MOT history and get the seller to explain any suspicious looking work done to ensure the longevity of your car.

The Finer Details

These are your final checks for little things that can affect the sale. When buying in-store or online, ensure you refer back to the research you have gathered and ask questions if there is anything at all you are still not sure about.

This will allow you wiggle room for potential bartering and ensure you get the Mercedes you want for the right money.

 

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