If you’re looking to buy a car, unless you’re a seasoned expert, you’ll hopefully be looking around for good advice about how to get the best deal. The problem is that a fair bit of the advice you’ll come across only applies if you were buying a car back in 1999, instead of 2019. The automotive industry has progressed and the internet is an essential source of information; a majority of consumers do all their product research online and an increasing majority are buying cars online. Nobody is trawling through magazine listings or visiting multiple dealers to find the right car. The initial process has moved entirely online to classified car advertisement websites.
Arguably, there’s never been a better time to buy a used car. The unintended effect of sites like Auto Trader was to stop price inflation because if the price is too high, customers will just buy a different car. Combine this with manufacturers extending warranties as well as a wealth of finance options and it’s no wonder the used car market is booming.
Which brings us back to our original point; much of the advice regarding buying a used car – like ‘get the lowest price’ – has just been regurgitated for the last 20 years and is no longer applicable. The question when buying a used car is no longer can you get the price lower, but can you get the same car for less?
Comparing apples to oranges
Value points have always effected car prices in the sense that a car with 100,000 miles is worth less than the same car with 50,000. But modern cars come with so many different trims, engine sizes and optional extras that you may end up comparing models with entirely different specifications. Know the exact specification of your desired car and use that as your negotiation price point.
Do your research
Know everything about your potential car before you ever set foot in a dealership – reviews, common faults, depreciation and everything in between. If you’re using car finance, research the various types of finance available to you and what interest rates and offers you can get. When the salesman starts reeling off their offers, you’ll already know if it’s a good deal or not.
You do the maths
Understanding the financial agreement before signing is vital. Compare offers by figuring out the entire cost of the contract – not just how low monthly payments or interest rates are. Know every facet of your agreement like additional fees to avoid issues down the line. Most importantly, ensure whatever finance agreement you take, you can comfortably afford every monthly payment for the whole contract period.
Independent inspections can be worth the money
It’s a sad fact that there’s less than reputable dealers. If you haven’t got a car savvy friend to help and you’ve had a couple red flags or the dealer reviews are less than favourable – an independent inspection may well be a worthwhile cost for peace of mind, especially on more luxurious cars.
Negotiation has evolved, not ended
Most people don’t realise how much tighter margins are on pre-owned cars today than 20 years ago because of online sales and the negotiation process has changed alongside it.
You don’t always need to negotiate in person if you don’t want to. Some, or all, of this process can happen online to avoid you wasting time going to a dealership without knowing you can get a good deal beforehand. Once you’ve done your research you will have a realistic idea of what the car is worth work from there.
If a dealership is reluctant or refusing to give prices, offer test drives or indeed have any communication online at all – move on and take your business elsewhere. There are always other cars.
However, if you’re sending in ludicrously low ball offers and not getting responses… it’s probably because they’d rather spend their time on a customer who will actually buy the car for what they know its worth.
Similarly, if a dealer won’t budge on the price of a car and it’s the cheapest you’ve found in the area, chances are it’s a great deal. If the price is non-negotiable – haggle incentives. For example, some dealers offer extended warranties or service plans heftily discounted if you take out a finance package instead of paying in cash. Get itemized quotes to use later when you’re doing your final calculations.
These are only useful if they work out as costing you less than what it would cost you to fix a large problem with your car. On luxury cars with expensive parts or notoriously unreliable models, an extended warranty may well be a great idea – but always check what is excluded under wear and tear.
Some dealerships are notorious for spamming calls and emails. Create a dedicated email address for this spam to go to. Pro tip – use Gmail to create your account for the added benefit of Google Voice, which will give you a free number to use to avoid spam calls to your real number.
Though a lot of the advice is dated, some advice remains as true today as it was 20 years ago…
- One day only prices are almost always a fabrication.
- A car with an excellent MOT record and a full service history is still almost always the best choice.
- Test drive everything, as much as you want and for as long as you need to.
Our final and parting advice – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Suspiciously under-priced cars almost always mean something is wrong with the car itself like it’s been clocked, cloned or cut-and-shut. It’s not worth the risk!