Golden rules: six things to remember when buying
The motors.co.uk half-dozen 'musts' to keep in mind when you go used-car shoppingFor most of us, buying a car is something that dsn’t happen often. And when it ds there’s so much to remember, writes Ray Castle of motors.co.uk. To say nothing of the thrill of driving your soon-to-be bought car. And if this has you all-a-jitter, it can cloud your normally steady judgement.
So, when buying, it is best to have a plan. And here, motors.co.uk has laid six rules that’ll provide just that. Follow these and we promise that you shouldn’t go too far wrong.
Check that it’s all correct, and do this before you even look at the car in any detail. That way, there’s less chance that you’ll fall in love with the car and so find it hard to walk away if you should.
First, check the registration document (also known as the V5C). Make sure that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) shown on it tallies with that on the car. Unless the car’s really old, you should find this on a plate under the windscreen glass, at the base of the screen on the passenger’s side. Ensure, too, that the registration number, colour and description match exactly, too.
Next, and if you’re buying privately, check that the keeper’s name and address shown on the document is also the seller’s. If buying from a dealer, this last point is less of a concern – but still, it’s not a bad idea to ring the previous keeper and ask when and why they sold the car. If a service history is offered, check that it belongs with the car. Ring the dealer shown as having carried out its most recent service and ask what they know about the vehicle.
2 Take a friend
Take a friend along when viewing. If he or she knows a bit about cars, so much the better. Their job is to act as a second pair of eyes, as a witness to what’s said, and to ask the questions you haven’t thought of. Both of you should wear old clothes for the visit, so that you’ll be ok to poke around underneath the car, look under the bonnet and check the tyres. Later, we’ll talk in detail about test driving your intended purchase. But we’ll just mention for now that a key job for your companion is to sit in the back of the car as you try it, listening for wheel rumbles (indicating worn bearings), clonks from worn suspension or exhaust leaks or rattles.
3 Nice people sell nice cars
Buying cars should be fun. And, so long as you keep things polite, sellers should answer your questions freely and pleasantly. Anyone who is offhand, evasive or pushy dsn’t deserve your money. Look around and take stock. If buying from a dealer, are the premises bright and well kept – or are there weeds growing across the forecourt? If you’re buying privately, is the seller and his or her home neat and tidy? And, more to the point, are they pleased to see you, eager to talk but also willing to let things take as long as they take?
4 Take a test drive
It’s important that you spend time with the car before you buy and a spin around the block won’t do. Ask for at least half an hour’s drive and take a route that will take in town, open roads and, if possible, a motorway. Try every gear, including reverse, and test all the controls, including wipers, headlamps, heater and air conditioning. If buying privately, make sure in advance that your insurance will cover you for the drive. A dealer should provide cover for test drives. After you’ve finished, lift the bonnet and check for oil or radiator leaks using a torch.
Some car supermarkets operate a strict fixed-price, no-haggle sales policy. But, almost everywhere else, it is fair to treat the asking price as a starting point for negotiation. A good tactic is to decide what you are happy to pay, then double the difference between that and the asking price, deduct it and make that your opening bid.
So if the seller is asking £5999 and you want a £400 discount, offer £5200. Expect that they’ll meet you half-way.
Keep your tone friendly, but be firm. If the seller gs quiet, don’t fill the silence by making an improved offer: the next move is theirs to make. If you’re buying from a dealer and they won’t budge on price, ask for some road tax, a set of mats for the cabin or even a tank of fuel to ‘sweeten’ the deal.
If you’re reached a deadlock but feel sure that the car is still too dear, walk away. At this point, the buyer may decide to drop the price – or they may call you later with an offer. If they don’t, you’ll know that you’ve got their best price and if it turns out to be cheaper than anyone else’s you can always go back to them.
6 Trust your instincts
Is the car as good as it’s cracked up to be? Is all its paperwork correct and proper? Is the seller a decent sort that you feel content to trade with? If everything checks out, fine. Do the deal.
But sometimes, even if all appears well, there’s a nagging doubt – one that won’t go away. Even if you can’t put a name to the problem, we’re great believers in trusting to instinct. If it feels ‘wrong’ think twice – and, perhaps, even walk away.
For more great buying advice – and to view and buy over 140,000 new and used cars – go to motors.co.uk