How to Buy A Car

These are the best UK car buying tips available on the internet.

Car buying tips

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) 2.69 million cars were registered in the UK last year and we have put together some car buying tips to help you along the way and take the stress out of the car buying process.

Buying a car can be a stressful process and many people don’t know where to start or what to look for when car shopping.

Car Buying Tips UK

Choosing a car

Work out the type of vehicle you need, this stage is the most crucial as you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a car that won’t be suitable for your daily needs.

Your circumstances will help you decide which type of car to go for. If this is going to be the only car in the family, you'll likely need more space, but if you are going to be the only person using the car and don't need the space you can get more for your money on smaller cars.

  • Is the car going to be used in the city or in the countryside?
  • How is the new car going to cope in the winter?
  • Are your circumstances likely to change soon? E.g. longer commute, kids etc.

Make sure you choose a car that will fulfil your daily needs as selling your car too soon is a sure way to lose money.

Buying Car Tips

Set a budget

It's very important to set a budget so that you don't make decisions based on emotion, as the beautiful top of the range car the salesman is trying to push may be out of your price range and you don’t want to overstretch your finances.

On top of the cost of your car finance here are a few things you should consider when setting your budget.

  • Maintenance costs
  • Fuel economy MPG
  • Cost of your car finance
  • Insurance costs
  • Price for taxing the vehicle

It's important you don't forget to factor in all associated costs and choose a car that you can afford.

Uk Car Buying Guide

Do your homework

Once you have chosen a car model and manufacturer you need to do some research… Lots of it!

Check out all car sales websites and research the prices across the market, this should give you a good idea of how much you should be paying for your car and avoid being overcharged.

Expanding your search to the surrounding cities may help you find a better deal, but If a deal sounds too good to be true…


Now that you have found the perfect car for you, there are a few things you need to do before you head over to the car dealer.

Uk Car Buying Tips

MOT History

Checking the MOT history will give you visibility of any work done to the car in the last few MOTs and you will also be able to see any advisories from the last MOT.

One very important thing to look for when checking the MOT History is the mileage at every MOT.

This should help you establish if the car might have been clocked in the past.

Clocking is the illegal practice of winding back the odometer on a high–mileage car to increase its apparent value and asking price.

Things to look out for:

  • Check that the mileage gradually goes up at each MOT.
  • Is there anything suspicious such as two MOTs with the same mileage?

This is not a guarantee the car hasn’t been clocked but it gives you extra piece of mind that you are doing your research. If you see anything suspicious… MOVE ON!

HPI Check

This service is a paid service, before spending your money I would recommend you go see the car and make sure you are happy with everything else beforehand.

Car Text Check will give you information on the following:

  • Check if it's STOLEN
  • Check if it's WRITTEN-OFF
  • Check DVLA data and Valuation

Car Valuation

If all you want is a car valuation you can do that FREE on Auto Trader by doing the following:

  • Sell your car tab
  • Enter registration and mileage
  • Click create your ad
  • Click next step

Auto Trader will give you a suggested price.

Car Buying Tips UK - your complete guide:

Checking the car

Cambelt & Timing Chain

This can be a very expensive service, check the manufacturer's website or car specific forums what is the recommended mileage to change the cambelt or timing chain depending on your vehicle. While you are there make sure you check for common faults or recalls for that car.

Checking this information will give you an indication if the work should have already been done (always ask the dealer) or how soon it will need to be done and you can use this information to negotiate on price.

Ask Questions

Most cars require work during the year and the owners of a used car should have a record of garage bills for work or parts as well as previous MOT certificates, and paperwork from regular services.

Ask them a few questions to ensure you understand more about the car. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Ask about service history
  • Has the cambelt or timing chain been replaced? Is there any paperwork as proof?
  • Any persistent faults with the car
  • Why are they selling the car? (Watch for their reaction when you ask this question)
  • Is the present keeper the person selling you the car? If not, then why are they selling the car for someone else?

As you do your research, write down a question as quickly as you have it. If you think of something good to ask and then forget it, it could cost you.

Get the finance sorted beforehand

Many car dealerships want you to finance a car through their financing department. Obviously, they can make some extra money from you if you do this.

When buying a car there are a lot of things to check and you don't need the additional stress of spending valuable time in the office sorting out the finance when you should be inspecting the car.

Not to mention that the dealer may not offer you the best finance deal and it's highly unlikely that you will find the best available car as well as the best finance deal from the same dealer.

A good way to ensure you get the best deal is to arrange your car finance online with a broker who will have access to a lot more lenders than your car dealer and find you the best deal based on your circumstances.

You don't have to worry about waiting for being approved for a loan when you’re at the dealer or telling the seller to hold the car for you until you get the finance sorted as most of the process can be done beforehand.

Apply for finance today

Car Buying Tips:

Buying the car

Buy from a reputable dealer.

If you don't know much about cars this will give you peace of mind that you have after sales care should something go wrong with your car.

The price may be a little higher, but If something does go wrong, the chances of them being easier to work with are much greater if you trust them from the beginning.

Many dealers will offer a warranty when you buy a car from them, just make sure you know exactly what's included in the warranty.

Buying privately

There are various ways you can buy a car privately - online, at an auction, through an advert in a newspaper or even Facebook.

I would only advise buying privately if you are experienced about cars and know what to check for to ensure the car is in good condition before you drive away. If you know what you're doing it can save you money, but if you get it wrong it can cost you a lot more and you won't be protected by the Sale of Goods Act.

When buying privately the car still must be "as described" so ask questions about its condition and get the answers in writing.

If the seller offers a viewing anywhere other than their home, there is a very good chance they are doing it for a reason.

If they have nothing to hide, they shouldn’t have a problem with you coming to their house.

Take someone with you.

Take your mechanic or someone who knows about cars, if that’s not possible take someone you can trust who won’t be emotionally attached to the purchase.

It's the second pair of eyes and ears to get information so you don't misinterpret what the seller is saying.

Since they are not emotionally involved, they can help you keep a cool head, so you don't make a silly mistake, like paying too much.

Never view a car in the rain, in poor light or at night!

The more information you have, the more the purchase will work in your favour.

Check and test drive the car

When inspecting the car, check the bodywork for any dents and scratches as well as rust, especially under wheel arches and for uneven gaps between body panels as this indicates poorly repaired crash damage.

Check the oil level is correct and, if buying a petrol car, that the oil is a light, yellowy-brown color – dirty oil could signal poor maintenance. Check for oil and water leaks as these can indicate serious engine problems.

Test all the non-engine electrics and make sure everything works, including lights, heating, heated screens, and radio. The last thing you want is to be spending extra money repairing faults with the car.

Take it for a test drive. Check that the car accelerates and brakes as you would expect and that the clutch and gearbox function correctly. If the dealer allows it would be good to take the car on the motorway as part of your test drive.

Listen out for any rattling noises as this could be a sign of mechanical problems. If safe to do so, take your hands off the wheel to make sure that the car doesn’t steer to one side as this could indicate tracking or suspension problems.

If you’re not particularly knowledgeable about cars, get your mechanic or friend to test drive it for you. If that is not an option, you can pay a garage to give the car a professional check-over.

Don't pay the asking price!

No seller expects to get the advertised price so even if you are happy to pay the asking price make them a lower offer as a starting point. That way there's room for negotiation from both sides and you should both be able to agree on a price. Don't forget to check the car valuation to help you negotiate a price.

You’ve done your research, you know what you want, and you have your car finance in place. When it's time to negotiate the deal, you're in control.

Before you complete the purchase ensure you do the following:

  • Agree collection/delivery arrangements
  • Confirm exactly what's included in the price
  • Confirm any work that the seller has agreed to do
  • Make sure you get a receipt showing vehicle details, price, terms of sale and the seller's details.

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