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How to buy a used car

Our guide outlines the decision process surrounding purchasing a used car


Buying a used car gives you the chance to make a considerable cost saving, as you can avoid some of the depreciation associated with a new car. However, there are some potential pitfalls you should be aware of, particularly if you have never bought a used vehicle before. At GO Vauxhall, our aim is to keep things simple and risk-free for you, to help you find your ideal used car.

Set a budget

It is easy to get carried away when you see a range of attractive cars to choose from. Work out your finances and set your budget before you start browsing. If you need a finance package to fund your car purchase, identify how much you can afford for the deposit and the monthly repayments.

Essentials and wish list

Just as you would if you were buying a new car, you need to identify exactly what you need from a used car. Essential requirements could include the size – both seating and storage –capacity, fuel economy, towing capability, and any other factors that are important to you. You should also create a wish list of features that are not essential, but you would like to have. Some features may be luxuries to one person but essentials to another. USB and Bluetooth connectivity may not be needed for some people, but if you use your vehicle as a part-time office while visiting clients, you might find it hard to manage without them, for example.

If you need to be able to stow a particularly bulky item regularly, such as a double-buggy or sports-equipment, take it with you when you view a used car, so you can test to make sure you can fit it in. Also check for roof bars if you need to be able to add a roof box when it comes to holiday time.

View when it is dry and bright

Always aim to view and test drive used cars in daylight so that you can really see what you are getting. You should inspect the car thoroughly, both inside and out, and daylight gives you a far better chance of spotting flaws in the paintwork or other issues. It is also easier to spot dents and paintwork flaws on a dry car, so avoid viewing in the rain if possible, when droplets of water can mask all manner of surface problems.

Other items

You should expect to get a spare key as well as the main key for your used car. Check for the vehicle handbook too, and if it’s not in the car, ask the vendor to locate it for you – you don’t want to have to fork out extra money on a replacement handbook.

Buy from a reputable dealer

You may see used cars at great prices advertised by private owners, and you may be lucky enough to pick up a bargain. However, buying privately is riskier than buying from an established dealer with a reputation to uphold.

Potential risks if you buy a used car privately or from an unknown dealer:

Outstanding finance - if the previous owner has not paid off a finance agreement in full, you could end up without a car at all, as the finance provider would have the right to recover the vehicle from you. Reputable used car dealers will have carried out the necessary background checks to ensure there is no unpaid finance on any vehicles they sell.

Cut-and-shuts - cars cobbled together from welded parts of written-off cars still make it onto the second-hand car market today. On the surface, such cars can seem to be in excellent condition, which makes them hard to identify. However, in an accident these cars can be extremely dangerous. Tell-tale signs can include uneven gaps in panels and spray paint on non-metal trims.

Clocking - winding the clock back to reduce the vehicle’s recorded mileage, and thereby inflate the car’s value, was not uncommon years ago in the age of analogue odometers. Unfortunately, it is also a problem today as criminals develop high-tech hacks to enable them to rewind the mileage on a digital odometer. Undetected clocking can result in customers paying thousands of pounds more than the car is worth.

Cloning - number plates are copied from an identical car, often to disguise a stolen vehicle. Check the vehicle’s number plate matches the V5C logbook number, and that the VIN / chassis numbers on the logbook and VIN plate tally. Choose a car from a reliable dealer and you can rest assured that a car data check will have been carried out to verify the car’s full history.

Checks and warranties

A reputable dealer will carry out a comprehensive series of checks on all used vehicles before they are approved for sale. This should include a vehicle history check, and a review of relevant documents available, such as service history, any MOT certificates and the V5C registration document.

Many car manufacturers now operate a warranty scheme for sales of their used cars. Vauxhall was a pioneer in offering more security for used car buyers. The Network Q programme was launched in 1990, and today continues to offer a wide range of benefits when you buy a used Vauxhall. Network Q benefits include a 12-month warranty, 30-day exchange pledge, a comprehensive multi-point check, 12 months’ roadside assistance, and a free 5-day insurance policy so you can drive your car away immediately.

At Go Vauxhall we have specialist advisers on hand to answer all your questions about buying a used car, and about the Network Q programme. Visit any of our locations in the South East, London and the Midlands, or call us today to find out how we can help you find your ideal used car.