The easiest way to save a stack of cash is to choose carefully when buying your next car.
First, make sure you don't pay over the odds for the car you want by picking up a Parkers Used Car Price Guide from your local newsagent or check Parkers online. Look up the 'book' value of the car you're thinking of buying and compare with the seller's price.
Next, save hundreds even before parking your next car on your drive by carefully considering where you buy it. Prices of similar cars can vary hugely from dealer to dealer - some add a bigger premium to a car's book price than others. So shopping around dealers in your area could net you a serious saving. Compare prices at your local dealers by viewing their up-to-date stock direct on their websites, using our Car Dealer Directory.
Don't rule out buying privately. You're likely to save at least several hundred pounds on dealer prices and be able to get a better idea of a car's history by talking to its previous owner.
If you're concerned about buying a lemon (even after reading our KwikGuide to buying a used car), get the car professionally inspected. Organisations like AimVI and the RAC offer expert inspection services costing from around £100.
Even if the inspection shows up a minor problem, you can use it to haggle a discount off the price. So it's possible the inspection will more than pay for itself. If a more serious problem is discovered causing you to decide against the car, you could potentially afford to have several cars inspected with the money you're saving over dealer prices.
Buying privately will also mean you won't have a dealer's warranty. Although if you'd prefer the peace of mind, warranty packages can also be bought separately. The professional inspection should show up anything really serious before you buy, but if anything does go wrong, you'll have already saved on the price.
Click for more advice on where to buy a used car from our car buying guide.
But what should you buy to cut your costs? Due to more people buying cars new, used car prices are crashing. Anything around 8 years old or more is now considered virtually worthless and so won't hit you too badly with the biggest car-ownership cost of all - depreciation. Yet choosing carefully from cars like this can still net you a tidy, reliable car. See our page on avoiding depreciation.
Good deals can also be found by looking for less-loved often saloon versions of popular hatchback models. For example, overshadowed models like the Ford Focus saloon or Volkswagen Bora, or more recently a used Volkswagen Jetta can be at least £500 cheaper than a same spec Golf.
For particular bargains, look at long-replaced models that, even if still low mileage, due to their age or outdated style can rarely be priced highly. Think ideally of high volume models of which there'll still be plenty around.
Or for similar quality cars at a lower price, look at the cheaper-brand cousins of the premium makes from the big car groups. For example, from the Volkswagen Group, the previous version of the Skoda Superb is an almost identical car to the VW Passat, and the Seat Alhambra MPV basically the same car as the VW Sharan. Yet neither command the premium price of the VW model, new or used.
Finally, don't be irrationally afraid of high miles. If regularly serviced, most car engines will comfortably do well over 100,000 miles these days. A high mileage car that has spent most of its life on the motorway is likely to be far more reliable than a low mileage car that's been maintained on the cheap or only been used on short journeys. So don't run from high numbers - look at the circumstances.
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