Click4Warranty Guide to Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car can be a smart financial decision, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and potential pitfalls. This guide aims to arm you with essential tips and steps to make an informed and wise choice. From the initial research to the final paperwork, Click4Warranty has got you covered.

1. Setting a Budget

Financial Planning

Understanding how much you can afford for a second hand car is the crucial first step in the car-buying process. Don’t forget to factor in the down payment, which can significantly reduce your monthly payments. Additionally, consider the cost of getting a loan if you’re not paying in cash, as interest rates can vary widely.

Use loan calculators available online to estimate monthly payments based on different interest rates and loan durations. By having a clear financial picture, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions, negotiate effectively, and avoid the pitfalls of buying a used car that you can’t comfortably afford in the long run.

Include Other Costs

When buying a used car in the UK, it’s important to look beyond the initial purchase price, commonly referred to as the “sticker price.” Additional expenses like Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), also known as road tax, can add to your ongoing costs. The amount of VED you’ll pay depends on the vehicle’s CO2 emissions, which means more fuel-efficient cars generally incur lower road tax.

Another significant ongoing expense is car insurance. Insurance premiums vary widely based on the make and model of the car, your driving history, and even your postcode. Other running costs like fuel, parking permits, and potential congestion charges should also be factored into your budget.

Besides these recurring costs, you should also anticipate occasional but inevitable expenses related to the car’s maintenance and servicing. Older cars may require frequent visits to the mechanic, and the costs of parts and labour can quickly increase.

MOT (Ministry of Transport) tests are another consideration; these are annual examinations required for cars over three years old, and they focus on vehicle safety, roadworthiness, and exhaust emissions. Failing an MOT test usually means incurring repair costs to bring the vehicle up to standard.

It’s also wise to set aside some money for unexpected repairs and emergencies, as used cars are generally more prone to wear and tear compared to new cars. All these costs should be calculated to give you a comprehensive understanding of what you can truly afford.

Note that you may be able to reduce some of the repair-related costs by investing in a good car warranty – yes, you can even get one for a second hand used car.


Related Reading: A Comprehensive Guide To Car Warranties For Used Cars


2. Understanding Your Needs

Type of Vehicle

Deciding what type of car to buy that best suits your needs depends largely on its primary use, and this is especially true in the UK, where road conditions and usage can vary widely. A smaller car like a saloon or hatchback may be more convenient and fuel-efficient if you’re mainly commuting in urban areas with tight parking spaces.

For those who regularly need to transport a family or bulky items, an SUV offers the extra space and flexibility you might require. A commercial van could be the most practical choice if you’re a tradesperson or need to haul heavy loads. Additionally, those who live in rural areas or frequently encounter rough terrains might benefit from the off-road capabilities of a 4×4 vehicle.

Consider your driving environment, the cost of fuel, and how much space and versatility you’ll need in day-to-day life to make an informed decision on the type of vehicle that’s right for you.

Must-Have Features

When shopping for a used car, certain features might be considered “must-haves”, depending on your needs. Here are some features to consider:

  • Fuel Efficiency: Given the high fuel prices in the UK, a fuel-efficient car can save you considerable money in the long run.
  • Safety Features: Anti-lock braking systems (ABS), multiple airbags, electronic stability control, and modern crumple zones are important for your safety. Advanced safety features like lane departure warnings or collision avoidance systems could also be beneficial.
  • Climate Control: Given the variable British weather, effective heating and air conditioning are important. Heated seats and steering wheels can add extra comfort in the winter months.
  • In-Car Entertainment and Connectivity: Features like Bluetooth, a USB port, or a high-quality audio system can make your journey more enjoyable.
  • Parking Assistance: Parking spaces can be tight, especially in urban areas. Features like parking sensors or a rear-view camera can be very helpful.
  • Navigation System: A built-in GPS can be a lifesaver, especially if you often drive in unfamiliar areas.
  • All-Wheel Drive or Four-Wheel Drive: A vehicle with all-wheel or four-wheel drive could be essential if you live in a rural area or need to navigate rough terrains.
  • Emission Ratings: Given the increasing number of low-emission zones in UK cities, choosing a car with low CO2 emissions can save money and improve the environment.
  • Good Visibility: Given the shorter daylight hours in winter and frequent rain, good headlights and an easily adjustable mirror setup can make driving safer and more comfortable.
  • Ample Boot Space: If you have a family or regularly carry many items, ensure there’s sufficient boot space for your needs.
  • Cruise Control: Cruise control can make the drive more relaxed and fuel-efficient for those who undertake longer motorway journeys.
  • Reliability: Finally, choose a make and model known for its reliability, especially if you’re buying a used car that has already seen a good amount of mileage.

Considering these features in line with your personal requirements will help you make a more informed decision when buying a used car in the UK.


Related Reading: Should I Buy a New, Nearly New or Used Car?


3. Where to Shop for Used Cars

There are various avenues where you can shop for a used car, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks.

Traditional dealerships are a popular option; they offer a wide range of choices and often provide some sort of used used car warranty or guarantee.

Certified Pre-Owned programs at these dealerships offer used cars that have been inspected, refurbished, and certified by a manufacturer or other certifying authority, offering peace of mind in terms of the vehicle’s condition.

Large dealerships may also offer financing options, making it a one-stop shop for buyers. However, cars from dealerships may be more expensive compared to other sources due to overheads and added services.

For those looking for a potentially cheaper option, private sellers offer a more personal and direct purchasing experience, often allowing you to negotiate the price more freely. You can find these sellers through classified ads in newspapers or specialised car-selling websites and forums.

Another growing trend is online car marketplaces, websites or apps that allow you to browse multiple listings, sometimes with features that help you easily compare prices and specifications. However, buying from a private seller or an online platform usually requires a greater degree of due diligence, as the cars often don’t come with car warranties, and you’re responsible for checking the car’s condition and history yourself. Always remember to be cautious of potential scams or fraudulent listings when using these platforms.


Related Reading: Sniffing Out A Car-Buying Scam: Essential Tips to Avoid A Bad Deal


4. Do Your Homework

Research Models

In the UK, where road conditions, weather, and driving habits can vary significantly, researching the reliability, cost of ownership, and reviews of a used car is crucial for making an informed purchase.

Reliability is a paramount factor, as a used car will likely have more wear and tear; you’d want to ensure that the make and model you’re interested in are known for their durability and low frequency of repairs.

The cost of ownership goes beyond the initial purchase price and includes elements like fuel efficiency, insurance rates, and maintenance costs—all factors that can significantly affect your long-term budget.

Reading reviews from both experts and current or previous owners can give you insights into the car’s performance, comfort, and potential issues. Reviews often cover aspects you might not consider otherwise, such as how the car handles in bad weather, the availability and cost of replacement parts, or the real-world fuel efficiency as opposed to the manufacturer’s claims.

Thorough research in these areas helps you avoid potential pitfalls and ensures that the car you choose fits your needs and budget in the long term.

Compare Prices

Various tools and platforms are available for comparing prices of used cars, which is a critical step in ensuring that you get good value for your money. Online marketplaces such as Auto Trader and eBay Motors allow you to search for specific makes and models within a certain price range, and many offer features to compare prices across multiple listings.

Websites like Parkers and What Car? provide comprehensive price guides, taking into account factors like age, mileage, and condition to give you an estimate of a car’s market value. Some platforms even offer valuation services where you can input a car’s registration number and mileage to get an estimated price.

Social media groups and forums focused on specific car brands or models can also be valuable resources for price comparison, as they often contain user-generated sales posts and discussions about pricing.

Dealership websites may list their inventory online, allowing for easy price comparisons with other dealers.

By utilising a combination of these resources, you can understand the going rates for the used car you’re interested in, putting you in a stronger position for negotiation.

Check Availability

Checking the availability of a specific used car involves a multi-pronged approach. Start with online marketplaces like Auto Trader or dealer websites to see listings matching your desired make, model, and specifications. These platforms often allow you to set up notifications for new listings that meet your criteria.

Additionally, don’t hesitate to directly call or visit local dealerships to inquire about their current inventory; they might even have cars that haven’t been listed online yet. If you’re looking for something specific, some dealerships can keep an eye out for you, notifying you when a car that matches your requirements becomes available.

It’s also worthwhile to check classified sections in local newspapers, and community boards, as some people still prefer these traditional methods for selling cars. Finally, leveraging your social network by asking friends, family, or colleagues if they know of anyone selling a car that meets your needs can sometimes yield quick and trustworthy results.


Related Reading: The 8 Cars That Hold Their Value The Best In 2023


5. Physical Inspection

When inspecting a previously owned car, pay close attention to the vehicle’s exterior and interior condition. Check for any signs of rust on the outside, especially around the wheel arches, door frames, and under the bonnet. Dents, scratches, or mismatched paint can indicate previous accidents or repairs, warranting further investigation.

The condition of the tyres is also important; uneven wear may suggest alignment issues or more serious mechanical problems.

Examine the lights, wipers, and other external features to make sure they are functional. Also, don’t forget to look under the car for any signs of fluid leaks.

The interior inspection should focus on the upholstery, dashboard, and general condition of the seats and floor mats.

Any unpleasant odours, particularly a musty smell, could indicate water leaks or worse. Turn the key to the ‘on’ position and check that all dashboard warning lights illuminate, and then go off when the engine starts, as they should. Test all the electrical components like windows, air conditioning, radio, and navigation system if applicable.

Finally, verify the mileage on the odometer to see if it matches the vehicle history report and general wear and tear of the car; discrepancies could be a red flag. Overall, the aim is to look for signs that the car has been well-maintained and to identify any potential issues that could lead to future repairs.


Related Reading: How to Check if  a Car has Been in an Accident?


6. Test Drive

When test-driving a used car, it’s crucial to pay attention to how the vehicle performs under various conditions. Start by driving in different environments, such as city streets, motorways, and, if possible, uneven or hilly terrains. This will give you a feel for the car’s handling, acceleration, braking, and overall manoeuvrability.

Observe how the car reacts when you accelerate or apply the brakes—does it respond smoothly or is there a lag? Listen for any unusual noises like rattles, squeaks, or grinding sounds, as these could indicate underlying issues. Check the responsiveness of the steering and ensure that the car doesn’t pull to one side, which could signify alignment or suspension issues. Take note of the transmission; if it’s an automatic, make sure it shifts seamlessly, and if it’s manual, test that the clutch operates smoothly.

Comfort and ergonomics are equally important during your test drive. Make sure you feel comfortable in the driver’s seat, and take note of visibility from all angles, including any blind spots. Check that all gauges and controls are easily readable and accessible. Test out the various amenities like the air conditioning, heater, audio system, and any advanced features like navigation or parking assistance.

If you’ll be using the car for specific tasks, like hauling heavy items, it may also be worth testing these capabilities if feasible. Keep in mind that a test drive is not just about seeing if the car moves but about evaluating whether the car meets your needs and offers a comfortable, safe, and enjoyable driving experience.


Related Reading: What to Do & What to Look Out for When Test Driving a Used Car


7. Check Vehicle History Report

In the UK, checking the vehicle history report is crucial when buying a used car. A comprehensive vehicle history report can provide essential information about the car’s past, such as its ownership history, mileage records, MOT test results, and whether it has been involved in any accidents or has outstanding finance against it.

One commonly used service for this is HPI Check, but there are other providers like Experian AutoCheck, AA Car Data Check, and My Car Check, among others. These services usually require the car’s registration number and sometimes the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) as well to generate a detailed report.

You can obtain these reports online for a fee, and it’s generally a quick process. Some dealers may offer a free history check as part of their sales package, but conducting your own independent check for verification is advisable. It’s crucial to note that while a clean history report is a good sign, it should not replace a thorough inspection and test drive.

Always ensure you are satisfied with the car’s condition and that it meets all your requirements before making a purchase. A vehicle history report serves as an additional layer of assurance, helping you avoid potential pitfalls like buying a stolen car or one with undisclosed problems.


Related Reading: How To Check A Car’s Service History


8. Pre-purchase Inspection

Having a qualified mechanic perform a pre-purchase inspection on a used car offers numerous advantages that can save you both money and future headaches. Even if you’re fairly knowledgeable about cars, a trained mechanic has the expertise to identify issues you may overlook, such as potential problems with the engine, transmission, brakes, or suspension.

They can also check for signs of past accidents or repairs that may not be readily apparent. A thorough inspection may reveal problems that could become costly repairs down the line, giving you leverage to negotiate a lower price or request that the seller address the issues before purchase. Additionally, a mechanic can give you an idea of future maintenance needs, so you can factor these into your decision-making and long-term budget.

Not only does an inspection provide peace of mind, but it also adds an extra layer of information that a vehicle history report may not capture. While a history report can offer details like past ownership and recorded accidents, it may not catch mechanical issues that haven’t yet been reported or documented.

For instance, odometer tampering, undisclosed accident damage, or issues from poor maintenance habits might not appear in a history report but could be spotted by a qualified mechanic. Given the significant investment involved in purchasing a car, spending a bit extra on a professional inspection is a prudent decision that can help you make a more informed choice.


Related Reading: How to Care for Your Car to Help It Live Longer


9. Negotiating the Price

Negotiating the price of a used car can be an intimidating experience, but it’s a crucial step to ensure you get the best value for your money. Before entering into negotiations, arm yourself with as much information as possible. Research the average market price for the make and model you’re interested in, considering variables like age, mileage, and condition.

Be aware of any issues or defects you or your mechanic have identified, as these can be strong negotiating points. If you’re trading in another vehicle, know its value as well. A clear sense of what you’re willing to pay and what the car is worth gives you a solid foundation for negotiation.

Start by making an offer that’s lower than your maximum budget but still within the range of reasonable prices for the car in question. This gives you room to manoeuvre upwards if the seller counters a higher amount. Be polite but firm in your negotiation, and be prepared to walk away if the seller won’t meet your terms; plenty of other cars are on the market.

Also, don’t forget to consider the total cost of ownership, including any repairs or upgrades the car will need, as part of your negotiation strategy. If the car has been on the market for a long time or if the seller seems motivated to sell quickly, you may have additional leverage. Above all, make sure any agreed-upon changes or repairs are put in writing as part of the final sales contract to avoid any misunderstandings or issues after the purchase.


Related Reading: Changes in Used Car Prices: What You Should Know


10. Finalising the Paperwork

Finalising the paperwork is a crucial last step in purchasing a used car, and it’s essential to ensure that all the required documents are correctly filled out and transferred. First and foremost, you’ll need the V5C, or the vehicle registration certificate, which proves ownership of the car. The seller must fill out the new keeper details on section 6 and both the seller and buyer need to sign section 8.

The seller then sends the V5C to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency), and you should receive a new V5C in your name within a few weeks. Other key documents to receive from the seller include the MOT (Ministry of Transport) certificate, which shows that the car meets certain safety and environmental standards, and any service records or warranties for the car.

Check that the vehicle identification number (VIN), engine number, and registration mark on the car match those on the V5C and MOT certificates.

Once you have these essential documents, you’ll also need to arrange car insurance, as driving without at least third-party insurance in the UK is illegal. You’ll also need to tax the vehicle, which can often be done online, over the phone, or at a Post Office that deals with vehicle tax.

Make sure to keep all your documents, including sales contracts or agreements, payment receipts, and any other records pertaining to the sale, in a safe place. These will be important not only for your own records but also in the event that you decide to sell the car in the future or need to reference any agreed-upon repairs or conditions.


The Final Decision

Now that you’ve gone through all of the above and the car still seems worth the price, you can feel a little at ease in investing in it. But don’t be afraid to hold back and ask questions if something seems off. There are plenty of other used cars out there waiting for your attention. Remember, when a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.


Related Reading: Do I Need Extended Car Warranty For A Used Car 



What are your options for extended UK car warranty cover?

We don’t want to complicate this, so we’ve kept it nice and simple. Here’s three great options for mechanical breakdown or electrical failure car warranty cover, that’ll give you all you need, including cover for wear & tear.

3-Star Car Warranty

Select this option if you want affordable cover for a long list of covered components. Gives you up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts.

4-Star Car Warranty

Select this option to cover a wide range of components on your vehicle, and get up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT in the event of mechanical breakdown or electrical failure, or imminent failure identified during an MOT or service.

5-Star Car Warranty

Looking for comprehensive warranty protection? Our 5-Star warranty covers an extensive range of parts and offers up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts on your vehicle.


Related Reading: The Consequences of NOT Having Click4Warranty Car Warranty Cover