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Posted by Joseph Clement on 24 May, 2018

Buying a used car can be quite a daunting task as there are a lot of potential risks involved. Choosing where to buy reliable used cars is one of the most difficult parts of the process. With so many options, including franchise dealers, independent dealers, car auctions and private sellers, it’s hard to decide what is best for you. I hope to make that decision easier for you by providing some valuable information on the topic.

Used car dealers

First off, one of the most appealing options for you will be buying from either a franchise or independent dealer. Why? Because it comes with a lot more assurances then buying a car privately. For example, car dealer used cars often come with a warranty that will cover unexpected repair costs if your car experiences a mechanical breakdown or electrical failure. That said, not every warranty is the same and not all of them will cover the same things, so make sure you read the small print to understand exactly what your warranty covers.

In some cases, when you are buying a nearly new used car it will still have some of the manufacturer’s warranty left. Keep an eye out for this as it provides that extra peace of mind and will give you more confidence when making your purchase.

Additionally, a car dealer will normally be able to offer you things like part-exchange which allows you to trade in your current car to get money off your new car. For example, if the new car you want to buy costs £10,000 and your current car is valued at £3,000. This would mean that you only need to pay £7,000 for the new car if you part exchange your current car as part of the purchase.

Another advantage of buying through a dealer is that you will be able to negotiate the price with a used car salesman. Haggling is a great way to bag yourself a good deal. In fact, I know someone who was able to secure a lower than listed price for their used car purchase, minor paintwork repairs, a full tank of fuel and free cleaning products! This was all because he drove a hard bargain. Not everyone feels comfortable doing it, but it can really pay off.

Something else to consider is that the number of carsales at a dealership will increase and decrease during certain times of the year so you might get a special deal if the dealer is eager to hit sales targets. Always talk to your used car salesman to find out what they can do, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Lastly, dealers are likely to have done some checks on the vehicles they are selling. They will normally repair any major faults and do an overall inspection of their cars. This is something that is a lot less common when buying privately. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that a used car dealership will probably offer you car finance options which is useful if you don’t have the cash to buy a vehicle outright.

Private sellers

A lot of people are hesitant to buy a car privately because it comes with much more risk than if you were to buy from a dealer. If you purchase a vehicle from a private seller and find out shortly afterwards that there is an issue it is a lot harder to take legal action. This is the reason why I would advise that you proceed with caution when buying privately. Always go for a test drive, and if possible, bring someone with you who knows a bit about cars so that they can perform all the necessary checks.

I’m not implying that private sellers are not trustworthy or anything like that. In fact, I know a lot of people who have successfully purchased used cars privately and there were absolutely no problems. However, there is always a chance that you could experience issues so it is better to be prepared than not.

One of the upsides to buying privately is that you’re almost guaranteed to pay less than if you were to buy that same vehicle at a dealership. Private sellers expect a potential buyer to haggle and are normally willing to drop the price significantly. I’ve heard stories of people selling their car because they are moving abroad. These individuals are often prepared to drop the price extremely low to get rid of the vehicle. After all, they are probably on a time limit and don’t want the hassle of having to try and sell their car from another country (sounds difficult just saying it). Not everyone will be moving abroad, but you get the picture, private sellers are sometimes desperate for a quick and easy sale and that is likely to be a good thing for you.

Lastly, a benefit of buying from a private seller is that you are actually able to meet the previous owner. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if something doesn’t seem right. Having conversations about the car with the previous owner may even give you an idea of how well they looked after the car during their time owning it. You can speak to them about past problems, service history, maintenance work and much more. All of this information will help you to make an informed decision about whether or not you want to buy the car.

And remember, a private seller will typically expect you to pay with cash, so if you don’t have the cash, you will need to take out a personal loan. There won’t be any car finance options. Also, warranties, part exchange, and all of the other options ordinarily offered by a dealer will not be available to you so be sure to bear this in mind.

Car auctions

There are two main types of car auctions: live car auctions and online auctions. Both carry some degree of risk but if you bid carefully, and take all the necessary precautions, you could bag yourself a very nice deal. Before taking part in an auction it’s important to set yourself a budget and stick to it. It also makes sense to do some research in advance of the auction. Maybe there is a car you are interested in that you know is going to be part of the auction. Find out the average cost of that car (taking into account things like age, mileage and condition etc.) and use that pricing as your measuring stick to gauge whether you are getting a good deal or not. Get too trigger happy, or competitive with the other bidders, and you could end up buying a car for more than you would like.

Let’s talk a bit more about live auctions and some of the things you should look out for. Many of the cars you will find at live actions used to be part of car fleets or were used by leasing companies. A lot of independent dealers source the majority of their cars from car auctions. This alone is proof that it is possible to find cars in good condition for a below market value. In fact, this is how many dealers make a profit for their business. If you can, always try to test drive a vehicle before deciding to bid on it. Not all auctions will offer this as an option, which isn’t ideal, but if they do, make sure you go for it. There’s nothing like a test drive to help you notice any obvious issues with the vehicle. Also, bear in mind that during an auction once the hammer has gone down there is no changing your mind. Lastly, keep an eye open for live car auctions that offer extra assurances – e.g. a mechanical report – on the vehicles that are part of their auction. This will give you that extra bit of reassurance when buying.

Next, I want to talk about online auctions. Firstly, they are more popular today then they have ever been. Similarly to live auctions, it is important to research the car you are interested in ahead of time, go for a test drive and carry out any necessary checks on the vehicle. One of the downsides, when compared to a live auction, is that normally you are only seeing the vehicle in pictures via the online auction website. Whereas at a live auction you typically get to see the vehicle in person. Do your best to arrange a viewing and test drive of the car with the seller. You need to feel confident that the car matches its description so that you have the right to pursue legal action if something doesn’t match up after you have bought it.

The main appeal of online auctions is how easily accessible they are and how easy it is to use search filters to find the specific car, or cars, that you are looking to purchase. They can definitely be a good place to secure yourself a bargain.


The great thing about buying a used car is that you have options. The ‘best’ option depends on what you feel most comfortable with. Yes, some methods carry more risk than others but that extra risk may end up being worth it for a better deal. I recommend that you look at each option, do a bit of research and then go ahead with the one you feel most at peace with. Hopefully, the information I have provided will make it easier for you to make a decision. I would like to wish you good luck with your hunt for a reliable used car and hope that you find yourself a fantastic deal.