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.

Book Your Pre-Purchase Inspection Now

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.

Book an inspection

50% of Used Cars Fail at Least One Category During a Pre-Purchase Inspection

car diganostics

We have tapped into our pre-purchase inspection data to reveal that 50% of used cars will score poorly in at least one category during a pre-purchase inspection.

Pre-purchase inspections tend to be broken down into several categories which will analyse the working condition of all aspects on a used car. ClickMechanic’s is broken down into twelve categories to include all necessary checks such as the electrics, brakes and the handling of the vehicle. By using our data from the last 2,000 inspections, we have determined which areas often cause the most trouble for motorists looking to buy.

In fact, looking at each category individually, the electricals/controls as well as the wheels and tyres are the most likely to cause an issue with 23% of used cars scoring poorly in these areas during inspection. This is followed by the body exterior with 18% along with the road test and engine compartment categories equally with 17%. After which, the suspension and brakes appear to cause the most problems; 12% of cars will score poorly on inspection of the front suspension, brakes and steering and 11% will do the same for the rear suspension and brakes.

Worn tyre

The less likely areas to need addressing after an inspection include the underside condition of the car, with 8% of cars facing issues in this region, as well as the clutch and transmission with 5%. Mechanics will also find faults with the exhaust system in 3% of used cars during a pre-purchase inspection as well as problems with the brake hydraulics and fuel system in 2% of used vehicles.

Given this, pre-purchase inspections tend to reveal more wear and tear in the electrics and the physical state of the car, such as the wheels and exterior, than the actual handling of the car. This includes faults with the clutch, which, despite being one of the most common repairs for every motorist, is not a very common issue to face during a pre-purchase inspection. This suggests that the seller is more likely to repair any mechanical handling issues rather than any faulty electrical components such as the heating or lights, or the wheels themselves. However, it is worrying to see that 13% of cars will score poorly in at least one category involving the brakes.

Andrew Jervis, Co-Founder of ClickMechanic said: “Any motorist looking to buy a used car should take care to ensure that it is in full working order – no one wants a surprisingly expensive repair bill, not to mention the importance of safety! A pre-purchase inspection should always be conducted and you should remember to take the additional costs into account before buying the vehicle.”