A guide to buying a used car: part three

Covered mag, presented by Gocompare.com
  • | by Dave Jenkins

It’s not looking too sunny on the forecourt right now. A recent AA survey found that two-thirds of people had no plans to buy a car in the immediate future.

Less people are looking at the same motors, and this means that sellers are fighting much harder for to get their top price. “When money’s tight, the market changes,” explains Matt Sanger, used car editor at What Car? magazine. “The truth is most people don’t actually need another car; they just want to upgrade. They might feel like their current car doesn’t reflect who they are any more. It’s an aspirational thing. But the cost in living changes people’s priorities.” With this is mind, it’s make sure you go in armed with the right buying strategy.

Set your price

Don’t set an unrealistic budget and always consider the running costs. How much is the tax? What insurance group does the car fall in to? Have you done a car insurance quote? How much fuel does it consume? Think ahead; who’s going to buy a three litre gas guzzler in the future? “If you’re looking at older cars, say under £2,000, then only spend three quarters of your budget,” says Tim Schallcross, head of technical advice at the Advanced Institute Of Motoring (AIM). “It’s more than likely it’ll need some form of repair or maintenance.”

Loan or save?

If you’re considering a loan then visit your bank first. It will know about your spending habits and the rates if offers are likely to be the most favourable. But banks are a lot more conservative when it comes to granting loans these days. If an independent finance company is your only option then shop around and ensure your choices are well informed as rates vary dramatically.

Forecourt or dealership sales often have their own car finance schemes in place. Compare the rates to others you’ve seen, and remember that the seller usually has a vested interest in you taking that loan themselves.

Current trends are leaning towards borrowing closer to home. The luckiest people are those who can benefit from a loan or gift from close relative. In fact more than twice as many 18-24 year olds (10 per cent compared with 4 per cent last year) seem set to enjoy such generosity, according to figures from the AA. But not all of us have this privilege and if you are borrowing the money give serious consideration as to whether you want a loan of three years or more…

And so the game begins. Loaded with loot, you’re now ready to engage in the best part of the used car buying experience. Play this well and you could make a big saving.

At the forecourt

Meet the car salesman. He’ll act like your best buddy, but he’s really not. It’s his job to sell you your car at the highest price possible so be sure to bear the following points in mind:

- You are always in control. You’re the one with the money and never forget this, no matter how much a salesman will try and turn the situation around.

- Body language can tell you a lot. Watch how the salesman shakes your hand. If his palm is face down he’s going in for the kill; he’s forcing you to put his hand under his. This is known to psychologists as the ‘dominant handshake.’ A great way to get out of this is to follow the lead of Allan Pease, an Australian psychologist and self-styled ‘Mr Body Language’. “Step forward with your left foot as you reach to shake hands,” says the expert in his book, Body Language. “Next, bring your right leg forward, moving left in front of the person and into his personal space. Now bring your left leg across to your right leg to complete the manoeuvre, and then shake the person’s hand. This tactic allows you to straighten the handshake position or to turn the other person’s hand into the submissive position. It also allows you to take control by invading the other person’s intimate zone.”

- If you’re buying from an independent dealership then don’t be alarmed by his gruffness or lack of connection. This is another trademark way of taking control of the situation. He’ll change his tune when he realises you’re serious and all the regular skill of the salesman will come into play.

- If you’re part exchanging your old car then make sure you know the trade value of your car as that’s all you be getting….even if they juggle the numbers up to confuse you. - If you’re in a relationship, take your other half. If you’re not, take a friend and pretend. The salesman will never, ever give you the best price if you both agree on how great your new car is. Why should he? He needs to see you leave with the car, so if you’re quarreling he needs to appease you. It’s a classic good cop/bad cop situation and there’s a whole minefield of issues you can ‘argue’ over such as the car’s fuel economy, its price, whether or not it was as good as the one at the other forecourt, for instance.

- However, always remember that if you leave that forecourt you will never get the same price on return. You’ve blown it; he knows you can’t find anything better and you’re putty in his hands

- Finally, if your deal involves a part-exchange don’t let him have your keys. He has no need for your keys until you’ve signed the paperwork. This is just a simple ploy to keep you in the forecourt for as long as possible!

From a private seller

Buying from a private seller should be a much friendlier affair. If he’s legitimate then there should be no hard sell. However, there are only a few issues to pay attention to in this situation...

- The best way to get the price down is to compliment it and say it’s out of your budget. If you start trying to knock down the cost by criticising certain things that need attention, you’re essentially criticising the owner. On the contrary, you should tell them you love it.

- “Take the cash with you,” advises Tim Shallcross. “Show it, but walk away. Very few people can deny the ready money in this situation.”

- Have fun with the situation! If you’ve done your homework and worked out who you’re buying your car from, what you’re getting and how to inspect it, you’re going to walk away from this situation with a new used motor.

For more information on buying a used car, check out Part One and Part Two of our guide.