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The KwikGuide to
Buying a used car
Section 1: The Search
what to look for
check the costs
where to look
where to buyarranging to viewSection 2: The Car

oily bits
test driving
Section 3: The Dealhagglingarranging to payI've been conned!
useful links
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Buying a used car

where to buy a car

Where's the best place to actually buy a car? Where you choose to buy will depend on the risks you're prepared to take to get a bargain, the kind of service you expect and how far you're prepared to travel.

By far the most secure is at a franchised dealer - the local official dealer for a particular car-maker. Most have 'approved used' schemes and they may well be able to track down a car that suits you if they don't have one in stock. You'll
get a well-checked, clean & presentable car, a long warranty and plenty of legal comeback if things go wrong.

KwikTip: always get a car insurance quote from Direct Line too,
as they don't take part in the price comparison websites.

But what you get in service and security, you pay for in price, and you'll
generally only find one make of car at each location. Franchised dealers have
big overheads so charge a lot more than for a similar car bought privately.

Independent dealers vary hugely in quality, ranging from glossy showrooms
to portakabins on waste ground, and there are usually plenty around your area. They'll normally keep a good choice of often older, higher mileage stock, and
so be able to offer better deals. The cars will often not be so well prepared as
at a franchised dealer, and may even still need some work done. So it's always worth getting your own inspection (see AimVI and the RAC inspection services
for more info). But they have the same legal obligations to you as a franchised dealer and they'll normally take your car in part exchange. You could get a better price for it too, as they might re-sell it themselves, and you'll often still
get a short warranty. However, they're not so hot for finance, which is often expensive.

Car supermarkets operate on the 'pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap' principle.
Buying power and high turnover of stock lets them offer all the dealer facilities
and also knockdown prices. They mostly stock mainstream, ex-fleet cars and you'll find a wide range at one location.

On the down side, they might be cheap but don't expect much movement on
price. And they might not want to part exchange your car either. If they do,
they're less likely to give you the best price for it.

Car supermarkets do also tend to be few and far between. Distance isn't just a problem for viewing a car you like the sound of. Even if you buy, you might
not be able to drive your car away the same day and will have to return to pick
it up. Worse, if something goes wrong under warranty, you may have to return
it to the supermarket to make a claim.

Buying privately is more risky - what you see is what you get and if the engine falls off the next day there's almost no comeback.

Searching privately is also more time-consuming as you can only see one car
at a time and there'll be no part exchange, so you'll also have to sell your own
car yourself. You'll also have to arrange your own finance and, if you want one,
buy an after-market warranty.

But there's an upside: mainly, that by cutting out the middle-man, it's easily the cheapest way to buy. You'll also be able to talk to the owner about the car's history & reliability (while remembering they actually want to sell you the car!).

Going private, but investing in an expert AimVI or RAC inspection to make sure you know what you're getting, can make a lot of sense. Often the inspection will either give you bargaining chips to haggle the price down, or prevent you
making an expensive mistake.

Read on for our KwikGuide to giving a car a thorough DIY inspection or read
more about your legal rights when buying a used car.

Auctions are for people who know what they're doing. There are serious
bargains to be had, but auctions are also a dumping ground for tat and so
very high risk. There'll be a wide choice of cars, but opportunities for testing
and inspecting cars are limited and you might get a very limited warranty. As
with buying privately, there's also no part exchange.

General rules are: visit an auction several times before bidding for anything - it's definitely an acquired art; follow the car into the ring to listen for any problems; decide on an absolute maximum you'd pay and don't bid past it; and make sure you understand the conditions of sale before bidding. And if at all possible, take
an expert!

The internet now offers a growing number of 'direct' dealers who don't have the costs of plush showrooms, so can offer some really great deals. Buying sight unseen is still a risk, but if you're looking for a nearly new car there are now
many companies offering bargain prices and who'll bring the car to you for inspection. You may even get a short test period or money-back guarantee in
case you discover faults or you find you can't live with the car.

Deciding where to buy your next car means weighing up what's most important
to you: security and convenience, or lowest possible price.

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