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Buying and selling a used car

Whilst we’d all like a shiny new car, for most of us the costs just don’t stack up, and buying a used car makes more sense. Take a look at our top tips for buying a second-hand car and maintaining its value, which will help when you come to sell it.

Buying a car

When it comes to buying a second-hand car, there's a lot to bear in mind. You'll want to make sure you don't spend too much up front, while also choosing something that won't break down as soon as you drive it away. We all have our favourite makes and models, but reliability should be the first thing you look for, whether buying an old or new car.

Do your homework: Parkers, What Car? and Glass's will all give you a realistic expectation for what sort of money you should be paying for each individual model.
 
Some models are cheap for a reason though, so don't go through the false economy of buying something that will gobble up your budget in repairs.
 
Be streetwise with money: Decide what you can realistically afford and don't venture beyond it. If the seller can't meet your budget, then walk away.
 
Take it for a test drive: Always ask for a test drive so you can get a feel for the car and whether it's going to be right for you or not. If the seller has nothing to hide, they shouldn't mind. Don't forget to check your policy and ensure you're covered to drive another car.
 
Ask questions: Ask about the car's service history. Whatever its appearance, your chosen model may have been in for repair more times than England striker Danny Welbeck! And make sure you see the car's V5C registration document as this reveals the official keeper. Never buy from anyone whose name does not show on this paperwork.
 
Get a quote: And when you do find the car you want, you can log in to your customer portal and get a new quote quickly to see if there would be any change to your premium. You can also update your policy online with the details of your new car at a time that suits you and saves you money in the process. It'll cost just £15 to make changes to your policy online, rather than £30 for doing it over the phone.
 
Remember never feel pressurised into buying a used car. Take your time and don’t let your heart rule your head. If in doubt, you can always walk away.  
 

Things to check

Don’t forget to do a few simple checks, which can save potential headaches further down the road.
 
Registration document (V5C): Check that the seller has one of these, and use the DVLA vehicle enquiry service to ensure the logbook details and the vehicle match their records. This is free and can be found at www.gov.uk.
 
Financial history: Make sure the vehicle doesn't have any outstanding loans on it, or that it's been registered as stolen or written off by an insurance company. A quick search on Google will bring up a number of companies offering this service.
 
MOT certificate: You can check the MOT certificate is genuine and see mileages and advisory comments at www.gov.uk.
 
Service history: Check what maintenance has been done to the car, ensuring the mileage adds up with the paperwork. It’s also worth making a note of when the cambelt is due for a change.
 
Independent report: If you’re not sure about the condition of a car, you can get an independent report that will tell you about any faults. To find an authorised garage go www.motorcodes.co.uk.

Maintaining the value of your car

Cars are a large investment and as a depreciating asset it’s worth thinking about what simple steps you can take now to maintain its value for when you eventually come to sell it. Here are some tips to help set you off to a good start:
 
  • Keep the service records, as buyers of used cars will often want to see how it’s been maintained. These should also add value to your sale
  • Keep the interior clean, otherwise buyers may use this to negotiate a lower price
  • Try to fix problems before they get too big
  • Do regular maintenance checks to extend the life of the vehicle and the opportunity for resale at a good price
  • Ask a friend to look over your car with a critical eye. They'll probably spot things you hadn't even noticed!

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