Buying a car can be quite daunting, especially if you’re the stereotypical woman who doesn’t really know much about cars. Or if you’re like myself and started driving later in life. In the past I have taken the easier but more expensive option and bought new so that I knew I at least had my warranty if anything should go wrong. This can be a bad financial move as the cars lose their value as soon as you drive them off the forecourt, but I know that a lot of people still buy new every year, and to be honest we debated getting a new model on finance because of our lack of knowledge and my constant fear that if you don’t buy something reliable I could end up stuck on the motorway, miles from home with 4 children hungry, tired, needing the toilet in the back. Mine and most parents WORST NIGHTMARE!
So here are a few little tips that I discovered whilst researching into buying a new used car:
1. Don’t be scared to ask for advice
This one can be a lot easier for women buying than men that don’t like to admit they know nothing about engines *coughs* ‘my husband’. I know most of us are worried about being ripped off every time the car needs anything doing to it at the garage. They could tell you it needs everything doing and you’re kind of at their mercy. Although neither my husband or myself know anything about cars, my Father-in-law does, and I have a mechanic friend who gave me some tips. Also, my Dad recommended someone that he trusts to give me some advice and I took my brother along, who knows more than my husband and I combined when I went to actually buy the car. If you really don’t know anyone who can give you tips, then ask around on Facebook groups, do some research, the internet is full of people wanting to give you their opinion.
2. Decide your budget
A big factor for most people is working out what you realistically can afford. I really didn’t want to go for a Diesel engine as I’m a big fan of the environment, and it was easy to be tricked into buying a petrol engine that was a lot newer for the same amount of money. Let’s be honest aesthetics are important to us women, but for the particular car that we were looking at, a Vauxhall Zafira, every mechanic and friend who knew anything about cars advised me against a petrol engine as they are notorious for having problems. This was much to my dismay, but once I got my head around the fact I would probably only be able to afford an 04 plate as opposed to an 07/08 plate it made the choosing a lot easier, which leads me to the next point.
3. Narrow your search
There are SO MANY used cars out there, my mind was literally boggling with all the choices. Was I willing to travel to collect our car or would I settle for lesser quality because it was down the road and easier in the short-term? We all love to have instant everything these days, and delaying gratification is definitely something that I struggle with. Once I decided my exact budget, and that I was going for a diesel engine, the amount of cars started to whittle down. I then also made a choice, that because I didn’t have the luxury of taking my mechanic friend along, I would only buy from registered traders rather than a private sale, because I didn’t know enough to be able to see if the car would be a good investment or not. I have seen my sister buy cars in the past from a private sale and the next day go and spend £1,000 to fix it because they wouldn’t allow her to return the car, and in the end she couldn’t be bothered with the hassle. Again this started to whittle my search down. I then decided how far I was willing to travel, don’t forget that on sites such as autotrader it works out miles as the crow flies, it doesn’t take into account how many miles you’ll actually have to drive to get there by road.
4. Buy a car with a recent MOT or a long time left on it
If you’re really going for a cheap car, you may only want it to last you a year minimum whilst you save for something else. A car with a recent MOT and that had minimal, if any, advisories on it is more likely to last you at least a year. Ours had been MOT’d the day before and only just put on autotrader the night before I bought it. It hadn’t had any advisories on it’s last MOT. The year before it had a couple of minor things, such as break lights needing replacing etc. and this had been rectified at the time. Which leads into the next thing…
5. Get a FULL service history
If you’re buying used you need to buy a car with a full service history. This way you know that nothing is hidden. You know exactly what issues that car has had in the past, hopefully only minor ones. You can see if it’s sailed through it’s last MOT’s etc. or if it often needs a lot of work doing to it. Great for assuring longevity although we all know nothing is guaranteed when it comes to our automobile friends.
6. Take it for a test drive
This can be daunting but is such an important step that should NOT be overlooked. My cousin told me about a car she bought that had so many issues that she would’ve realised had she taken it for a test drive. I was super nervous about this part as I was going from driving a teeny Toyota Yaris to a 7-Seater Vauxhall Zafira. I asked the mechanic to drive it off the forecourt for me and take me to somewhere more spacious for when I started to drive, think like when you first passed your test. Then it was my turn. Check the car starts first time, that it doesn’t misfire, check there’s no mechanical fault lights flashing whilst you’re driving, check the lights, the aircon, the electrics. All the things that may have contributed to why you were willing to pay this price. Does it drive smoothly? Are the gears shifting nicely, does the clutch stick? Are the breaks working well? All of these things are important to check on a test drive.
7. Check the tyres
I have had a car fail it’s MOT in the past because the tyres were not at the legal tread requirement. Tyre safety is so important, after driving for nearly a couple of years now I can definitely tell the difference when I’m driving and the tyres need more air in them, when the tread is wearing it doesn’t corner the way it should. It is unsafe in wet conditions and will add time to your breaking distance. It is so important to be aware of tyre safety. If you’re buying a used car from a registered car trader the tyres should all be legal, and again, this is one thing to look out for on the recent MOT. Tyres can be expensive if you don’t know where to look – check out Point-S car tyres in the UK! Point is a network of independent tyre dealers that stocks some of the best brands at really reasonable prices and if you use their locator you’ll see they have stockists up and down the country. There are 3 centres within 15 miles of myself. There are also some companies that stock part worn tyres that are in great condition and can be even cheaper. We sometimes go to a local dealer like this as recommended by our mechanic friend when funds are a little tighter. The important thing is to check your tread is at least 1.6mm throughout a continuous band in the centre 3/4 of the tread and around the entire circumference. For more information on the laws about car tyres click here.
*N.B. This is a collaborative post