When buying a second-hand vehicle as there is such a wide choice available it can often be difficult to work out which used cars suit you best.  Before you start endlessly scrolling through a car marketplace, take some time to consider what you really want. As with most things, when you know what you want, it’s easier to find it!

Consider the must-have features for your used car

Think about what features you would like your car to have. This will be different for everyone. Reliability and fuel efficiency will be top of the list for someone making lots of short city trips. Someone with a long commute each day might prioritise comfort.

Think about how you are planning to use the car will also help. Something that’s great for long road trips or camping holidays will be different from the ideal car for just heading to work and the shops. Compile a shortlist of things you’re looking for and build a list of the kinds of cars that embody those traits. When you do this, the make, model and style of the motor become clearer.

Typical traits to consider

As a rule of thumb, the following car traits should help you find the used car of your dreams.

Smaller engines = lower running costs

There is always an exception to the rule, but most of the time small engines require less fuel and therefore cost less to run. Something like the Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i 3dr is a great example of this. It’s a pretty straightforward motor. It scored a perfect 100% in the What Car? Reliability Survey for all models as far back as 2014. Cheap to run and reliability are the perfect combination for a city run-around. It’s a small three-door hatch, so there’s less weight for the engine to move too.

An electric vehicle will be a bigger initial outlay, but less to run.

Hybrid and electric motors are desirable – particularly is you’re in and out of a city like London with Low Emissions Zones. Although they’ll have you digging a little deeper to make them yours, the lifetime running costs will be much less than a diesel or petrol car.

The Volkswagen e-UP! and the Kia Soul EV both come highly recommended. You can expect to pay around £13,000 for a used Kia Soul EV, which is around the average price paid for any used car. We think that’s a steal for a used-electric vehicle with funky looks and five seats.

The smaller the car, the smaller your insurance cost

It is also a good idea to compare insurance costs and service and maintenance costs for the different cars you are interested in, as this can help narrow down your final choices. Cars are ranked on a scale of 1 – 50 for insurance. It’s based on a number of different factors – performance, safety, cost of spare parts and, you guessed it, engine size. The smaller the car, the smaller the engine.

You can check the insurance rank for used cars you’re interested in with Thatcham’s Insurance Group Rating. The higher they rank a make and model, the higher the insurance is likely to be.

Petrol is cheaper than diesel.

Diesel cars may well be more economical, but they’ll cost you more to buy and again at the pump. Similarly with automatic transmissions versus manual – automatic will cost you more to buy and maintain, that’s for new or used cars.

Finance options for a used car purchase

If you are planning on getting finance make sure you do your research.  A lot of dealerships will try and sell new and used cars on finance. They may even hint that it’s the only way to get the deal you want. It’s one of the ways they make more money.  Some finance deals can be very expensive and ‘deal’ is probably a misnomer. Consider all your finance options as a bank loan may give you a better interest rate.

If you are buying from a dealer, it’s worth taking note of the time of year and holding off a month or two if it’s not nearing the end of the quarter. The best time to buy a car from a dealer is when they would have their quarterly sales in March, June, September and December. Also towards the end of the month or quarter, car salespeople are generally trying to attain sales targets so may be more open to lower offers.

Additional points to remember when buying a used car

There’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to learning all the tips and tricks of trading in or selling your car and replacing it with a new-to-you used car. When you do find a car that seems to meet all of your must-have features, give it a thorough check over. This is not a time to be worried about looking a gift horse in the mouth, get up close to those teeth and make sure they’re not falsies!

  • Selling your car privately could get you up to 20% more money than part-exchanging for a new car.
  • A car that is a year old will be considerably cheaper than the same brand new. 
  • Manuals cars are generally cheaper than automatic cars and more fuel-efficient
  • Check the cars Co2 emissions as they effects the annual road tax payable. You can do this on the .gov.uk website.

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