How to buy a car

Going out to buy a new car may be exciting – but it might also involve more than its fair share of headaches, not to mention expensive mistakes.

Follow some of these tips and suggestions, however, and buying a car might become the fun it’s intended to be, without the risk of you making decisions you later regret:

New or used?

  • whether you choose to buy a new or used car might depend on your budget – a new car is naturally more expensive, but you gain the manufacturer’s full warranty and the dealer’s after-sales service;
  • but remember that the value of a new car depreciates rapidly – the AA, for example, estimates that the average new car loses 60% of its value in the first three years of its life, whilst the Money Saving Expert advises that a car that is only one year old may be as much as 27% cheaper than the new price;
  • if you are buying a used car, however, the risks are greater are far more care needs to be exercised – although an experienced or well-informed buyer may be able to snap up a bargain;
  • the second hand market is wider, too, with a choice of main dealers, used car dealers, online listings and other private sales;

Car finance

  • buying a car typically involves some form of car finance and it is typically helpful to arrange this at as early a stage as possible;
  • this avoids a situation where you see a car you want and are tempted to agree the finance deal offered to by the dealer on the forecourt – without the opportunity to shop around for more competitively priced car finance arrangements elsewhere;
  • yet there are some lenders who help you complete the several stages involved in arranging your choice from competitively priced car finance in advance – and, with the loan approved, let you buy your car from any approved dealer;

Insurance and road tax

  • it is also worth bearing in mind the likely running costs of any car you buy – including the cost of insurance and road tax;
  • your vehicle is going to be grouped into one of 50 different insurance classes – with the lowest (class A) being the cheapest to insure;
  • cars also fall into different bands for road tax purposes and each band is defined by the vehicle’s CO2 emissions and the type of fuel it uses;


  • before you express your interest in buying any car – new or used – make sure to check its list price, so you have a basis on which to negotiate a reduction in the price;
  • dealers have stiff sales targets to meet, so even if you are buying a new car, it is worth haggling to gain a reduction;
  • if you are buying through a private sale, of course, your scope for haggling may be greater still, especially if you have the mechanical or technical knowledge to argue for a reduction based on apparent faults you have spotted – consider asking an experienced car mechanic along with you to lend weight to your arguments;


  • Autotrader magazine suggests some of the important paperwork you need to consider when buying a car;
  • when going to view any vehicle, remember to take along your driving licence and certificate of insurance, since you are going to want to take it for a test drive;
  • ask to see the vehicle’s log book (V5C as its formally known) and check that the details in that match the car;
  • remember that these days, the road tax does not transfer with ownership, so you need to arrange tax for the vehicle in your name (which may be done online or by telephone), when you are also able to check its MOT status and ownership.

All this might seem to make buying a car an extremely complicated business – but in the great majority of cases, it is likely to proceed smoothly and without a hitch. Follow these tips and suggestions and you may avoid some of the more obvious pitfalls.

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