Before you buy a car

There are a number of questions you need to ask yourself before you buy a car:

  • What will you use it for?
  • How long do you expect to own it?
  • Are you looking for reliability?
  • How many miles do you plan to do?
  • Are you buying it for practicality, for fun, or perhaps a bit of both?
  • Do you want something luxurious or thrifty?
  • How much are you willing to spend (include other costs such as insurance, tax, services and fuel)?
  • What type of model and manufacturer are you leaning towards?

These questions will influence your decision on what type of car you choose to go for. Consider carefully what style and size of car will suit your needs best. It is important that you buy a car that is practical for your lifestyle.

For example, if you carry sports or music equipment you may need a car with a bigger boot, or of you need to tow a trailer you may need a car with a bigger engine and stronger suspension. If you live in a town or city and you don’t use your car that often, a much smaller car may suit you best. Think about the mileage you are likely to do in the car and take into account ongoing running costs such as fuel, services and tax.

Think about timing

  • Check whether a new model is available for the car that you are thinking about buying. If there is a new model about to be launched, this can affect the price you pay for the car and its later re-sale price. If you visit a dealer at the time of new car sales in January or July, they may also have a good stock of used cars from trade-ins to choose from.
  • Dealers often get bonuses from the smaller manufacturers for selling a certain number of cars a month. So if you walk in at the end of the month and the dealer has not reached his/her target, they are more likely to do you a deal.

Are you trading in?

  • If you are trading-in your existing car, you need to consider the “cost of changing”, i.e. subtracting the value of your trade-in from the price of a new car.
  • Get to know how much your trade-in is worth by looking at similar models online.
  • Take your car to three or four used car-dealers currently selling cars similar to yours and see what they will give you for the car.
  • After you’ve done your research, you will know the lowest and highest sale values for your car. When the dealer asks what you want for your car, have a strategy to get the best price you can.

Tips to get the best value trade-in

  • If you’ve kept all the maintenance records on your car, take them with you and ask the dealer if you can get more for your car because you have them.
  • Don’t let a dealer know that you have a trade-in until you’ve negotiated. First, find out how much you would pay for the car if you had no trade in. Then ask the dealer what price you’ll pay for the car if you trade-in your current one. The difference between both prices will tell you the value the dealer is placing on your trade-in.

When you have found the car you want, the next step is to check out the condition of the car and do a car history check before you buy.

Top Tip

The UK is no longer part of the EU and vehicles imported from Great Britain are now subject to import taxes and other charges. More information can be found on the Revenue website.

In addition, your EU consumer rights no longer automatically apply when buying from the UK. More information on Brexit can be found here.

Last updated on 28 June 2021