Harwoods: Expert Tips on Buying a Used Car

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  • Car Guide

Harwoods Guide to Buying a Used Car

Choosing the Right Used Car

The crucial step in the journey of purchasing a used car is selecting a vehicle that caters to your needs and fits your budget. Here are some valuable tips to help you make an informed decision:

Identify your needs and budget

Commence your search by understanding your requirements and setting a budget. Consider factors such as the car's size, fuel efficiency, upkeep costs, and any specific features you desire. This will streamline your search, helping you find a car that aligns with your lifestyle and financial situation.

Research to find the perfect car

Having defined your needs and budget, it's time to delve into detailed research. Begin by exploring trusted websites, such as Harwoods. Look for comprehensive information about each car, including its make, model, year, mileage, and condition. Reading customer reviews and ratings can offer insight into the vehicle's overall satisfaction level. Additionally, utilise tools like vehicle history reports to check for any previous accidents, repairs, or issues.

Compare various models

Having shortlisted your options, you may find it useful to compare different models to find the car that’s right for you and your lifestyle. Consider factors such as safety features, reliability, performance, and resale value. Pay heed to the car's overall condition, maintenance, and repair history. Compare prices and financing options to ensure you get the most value for your money. 

Following these steps can make the process of purchasing a used car less intimidating and more rewarding. Remember, it's crucial to take your time, conduct thorough research, and choose a reputable dealership like Harwoods for a positive buying experience.

Where to Buy a Used Car

When it comes to purchasing a used car, you have several avenues to explore. Each option comes with its own positives and negatives, so it's essential to understand them before making a decision.

Purchasing from a Dealer

Purchasing from a dealer is a popular choice offering security and peace of mind, as dealerships often provide warranties and after sales services. Additionally, dealerships boast a wide array of vehicles, allowing you to compare different makes and models at one location. 

Purchasing from an Auction

Another option is purchasing from an auction. Auctions can offer great deals as vehicles are often sold at lower prices. However, the downside is the lack of an opportunity to test drive the vehicle before purchasing. It's also important to research the auction and the vehicle thoroughly to ensure a reliable purchase.

Purchasing Privately

Finally, you can consider purchasing a used car privately. This option often offers lower prices compared to dealerships and auctions. However, you need to be cautious when purchasing privately, as there is no warranty or after-sale service. Additionally, you may need to arrange for your own vehicle inspection and history check to ensure the car is in good condition and not stolen.

To ensure a dealer is reliable, you can check if the dealer is a member of a recognised trade association, such as the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) or the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA). These associations often have stringent codes of conduct that their members must abide by. You can also read online reviews and testimonials from previous customers to get an idea of the dealer's reputation.

When purchasing a car online, it's important to take certain steps to protect yourself. Firstly, ensure that the website you are using is secure and reputable. Look for secure payment options and read the website's terms and conditions. Secondly, thoroughly research the seller and the vehicle. Check the seller's ratings and reviews, and request detailed information about the car's history, condition, and service records. If possible, arrange for an independent inspection of the vehicle before making a purchase.

Inspecting a Used Car Before Purchase

When purchasing a used car, a thorough inspection of the vehicle is important to ensure a wise investment. Here are some vital checks you should perform before making a decision:

Exterior: Examine the car's exterior for any signs of damage, such as dents, scratches, or rust. Check the condition of the tyres and ensure they have sufficient tread depth.

Interior: Sit inside the car and inspect the upholstery, dashboard, and controls. Look for any signs of wear and tear or potential issues.

Under the bonnet: Open the bonnet and inspect the engine for any leaks, corrosion, or unusual sounds. Check the fluid levels, including oil, coolant, and brake fluid.

Electrical Systems: Test all the electrical components, including lights, indicators, air conditioning, and audio system, to ensure they are functioning properly.

Besides these vital checks, taking the car for a test drive is crucial. It allows you to assess the car's performance, handling, and overall comfort. Pay attention to any strange noises, vibrations, or issues with acceleration or braking. A test drive will also help you determine if the car meets your specific needs and preferences. If you are unsure about the car's condition or want an expert opinion, it is advisable to obtain an independent report. This report provides an unbiased assessment of the vehicle's condition, highlighting any potential problems or hidden issues that may not be apparent during a visual inspection.

By conducting thorough inspections, test drives, and obtaining independent reports if needed, you can make an informed decision when purchasing a used car. Remember, investing time in these checks can save you from future regrets and unexpected expenses.

Understanding the Car’s History

When purchasing a used car, understanding the vehicle's history is essential to make an informed decision. By checking the vehicle's history, you can uncover any hidden issues or potential risks that may affect its performance and value.

One crucial aspect to consider is checking for any outstanding finance on the vehicle. If a car has outstanding finance, it means that the previous owner still owes money to a finance company. Purchasing a car with outstanding finance can be risky as the finance company may repossess the vehicle, leaving you without a car and losing your investment. To avoid this, it is recommended to perform a thorough finance check using reputable services like HPI Check or Experian to ensure that the car is clear of any financial obligations.

Another important factor to look out for is the possibility of purchasing a cloned or cut-and-shut car. Cloning involves illegally copying the identity of a legitimate vehicle, while a cut-and-shut car is created by joining two or more damaged vehicles together. These types of cars pose serious safety and legal risks and should be avoided at all costs. To spot a cloned or cut-and-shut car, carefully examine the vehicle's documentation, VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), and service history. Look for inconsistencies, such as mismatched VIN numbers or incomplete service records. Additionally, it is advisable to get an independent vehicle inspection by a qualified mechanic to thoroughly inspect the car's structure and components.

By understanding the car's history, checking for outstanding finance, and being vigilant for cloned or cut-and-shut cars, you can make a more informed decision when purchasing a used car. At Harwoods, we prioritise transparency and provide comprehensive vehicle histories for all our used cars, ensuring that you have the peace of mind and confidence in your purchase.

What is the best vehicle age to buy?

The best age to buy a used car depends on your individual needs, budget, and how well the vehicle has been maintained. We recommend doing some research and considering factors such as mileage, maintenance history, and overall condition, rather than purely focusing on the age of the car. If it’s possible, it could also be worth asking a trusted mechanic to inspect the vehicle, ensuring it’s in good condition and worth the asking price. If that’s not possible, ensure you have all the necessary documentation such as the service and MOT history, alongside knowledge of previous owners to help make your decision. 

Can I finance a used car?

Yes, it is possible to finance a used car. When financing a used car, the loan terms and interest rates may vary based on factors such as your credit score, the age of the car, and the agreed loan amount.

Our range of finance plans are all designed to make sure that funding your new vehicle is a straightforward process. Get in touch with us to discuss our tailored options, available to meet your unique preferences and needs.

Is it safe to buy a car online?

Yes, buying a car online is safe, provided you take necessary precautions, research the seller or platform, and thoroughly review the vehicle's details and history before making a decision. Buying your next car from a reliable dealership like Harwoods is the safest way to buy a car online. Each of our cars is subject to a 120+ point inspection before they go on sale. This ensures they're at the standard our customers expect. We also offer a tailored service to advise and support you when buying your new car online. Whether you choose to buy new or used, or discover our range of  after sales services, simply get in touch with us and our team of advisors will be happy to help.

Published by Amy Josling Digital Marketing & Content Executive

What questions should I ask when buying a second hand car?

Vehicle history & condition

Tax & insurance

Features & specifications


Price & payment


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