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The Smart Way to Buy a Pre-Owned Car

We love new cars, but that doesn’t mean we love paying for them. Buying a used car instead comes with its own set of advantages, as well as its own share of dangers.

Whether you’re looking for reliable transportation or are just in the market to buy your first car, buying used can be one of the smartest ways to go. But not all pre-owned cars are created equal, and if you’re looking to invest in one that will last you years down the road, there are some things you need to know before you get started.

Questions to Ask Before Buying

Here are some questions you might want to ask about a used car before buying:

1. Does it run? When was it last serviced?

2. Does your research indicate that it will require more than routine maintenance?

3. Is there anything that needs repairing besides normal wear and tear?

4. Will my insurance cost more if I drive it?

5. What is in the car's MOT history?

6. How long do cars like these hold their value?

7. Can I sell it easily if needed down the road or used car dealers won't offer as much as they would for other comparable vehicles?

8. Am I going to need financing and, if so, should I think seriously about leasing instead of buying now?

Tips to Get a Good Deal

If you don’t mind looking around and waiting, searching online auction sites like AutoTrader or Manheim is an inexpensive way to find great deals on popular models. If you want something specific, like last year’s model at last year’s price, AutoTrader will let you filter down your search as much as possible—and that makes it easy to use even if there are only one or two vehicles that fit your criteria nearby. If you have time constraints, though, be careful; these sorts of sites usually have very few cars available for sale and getting in touch with sellers can be tricky since most prefer to deal over email rather than phone calls. Finally, auction houses and dealers offer amazing deals in certain situations (like when they’re trying to get rid of inventory), but they also tend to charge very hefty fees (typically anywhere from £500-£3,000), so keep those fees in mind when considering their prices.

How to Negotiate the Price

When buying a pre-owned car, don’t go into negotiations unprepared. The following are three steps you can take in order to be sure you’re getting an appropriate price:

1) Do your research on comparable models.

2) Shop around.

3) Get an estimate from a mechanic before negotiating.

Having all of these details will give you confidence and allow you to enter negotiations feeling like an expert. When you know what makes up a fair price, it's much easier not to be taken advantage of. It’s also important to decide what extras you want before talking with dealerships. This way, they won't try to sell you anything you don't need, which could drive up the cost or lower your trade-in value. For example, if you already have insurance and financing set up for when a vehicle is purchased, then there’s no reason for them to add on services or equipment that may end up costing hundreds more than their worth. Or if it comes down to two similar vehicles at two different prices but one has heated seats and backup sensors while another does not—you may feel that those features are worth paying extra for, or perhaps having them installed later yourself is less expensive than paying thousands of pounds more at first glance.

Tips To Save Money on Maintenance

When you buy a used car, you may be afraid of the additional maintenance costs. However, there are ways to save on accessories and maintenance. In fact, most pre-owned cars come with an included warranty, which covers any manufacturing defect that occurs within six to twelve months of purchase. During that period of time, if your car needs something covered by the warranty (e.g. exhaust, brake pads, battery etc.), all you have to do is show proof of your warranty coverage and pay for parts only. No service fees will be assessed for services covered under warranty.

Safety Features That are Totally Worth it

If you do decide to buy a pre-owned car, remember these four safety features: antilock brakes, electronic stability control, side curtain airbags and seat belt pretensioners. Most people don’t think of these as optional extras—they’re standard on almost every new car sold today. If you find yourself buying pre-owned (or not equipped with all of them), you should ask why that is. When it comes to your safety, it pays to shop smart.

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