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What to think about when buying a used car

Today, we’re thinking about an expensive and, potentially, intimidating purchase: a used car.

Sure, you can skip some stress by buying brand new. But you’ll save money now and in the future (in cash, depreciation, insurance and tax) if you decide that used is for you.

So here are a few thoughts that we hope will guide your purchase of a very fine used car.


Forgo perfection in exchange for a stonking deal.

If you have a lot of cash and you’re buying new, you can select whatever car you want. Buying used means that you have to give and take on some of your requirements.

That’s not to say the choice is limited. The UK used car market is huge and you can bet your last pound that a reputable seller is out there with the car that you want. All you have to do is be willing to slightly adjust your search parameters – price, age, miles, model, make etc – to find it. 


Different types of sellers mean different pros and cons.

Flexibility means knowing that there are many different types of sellers, all with pros and cons. Whilst private sellers might save you some cash at purchase, dealerships will give you a high level of service and peace of mind.

So balance what sort of service you want against the sort of money you want to pay.


Get your head under the bonnet. And give it some beans.

Even if you don’t know much about cars, be sure to inspect the car in person and do your best to have a really good look for obvious damage and faults in the interior, exterior and engine.

Take it for a test drive on varying roads and get a feel for how the car behaves. If you can, get onto some open road and give it some gas. Most problems with older cars will rear their head at high speed, so see what the car is like when going some.

Take a look at this excellent guide from the AA about how to test drive a car.


Assessing the car means assessing the seller.

Nice people (should) sell nice cars. So, whilst inspecting the car, give the seller a once over too. Are they friendly? Are they too friendly? Does their business have a good reputation? By getting to know them and their business, you get a good idea of whether they’re selling a solid vehicle. 

This is especially important if buying privately. There’s no reason to assume all sellers are trying to pull a fast one, but try and get a rapport going to show that the seller is genuine and honest. 

Using payment protection, such as Shieldpay, when it comes to paying for your car can also provide more security. At that critical point, technology like Shieldpay can provide you with an extra level of verification to prove that the vendor is, indeed, who they say they are.


Buy cheap. Break down.

As with most purchases, if the deal feels too good to be true, it most likely is. The advertised price should be one you’re willing to pay. If the bargain is too great, then there’s likely a problem that you haven’t yet spotted.

Try to pay a price that’s not too much and, contrary to temptation, not too little.


A dentist inspects your teeth. A mechanic inspects your car. So use experts.

You like the car. The seller seems honest. The price is right. Now you really assess the vehicle.

Unless you’re an expert, spend time and money getting the vehicle professionally checked. A trustworthy garage will do it, but the AA and the RAC offer comprehensive checks that cover all elements of the vehicle. Their findings will be given to you in verbal and written form which will give you an indication of whether to proceed with the purchase.

Be aware, the AA and RAC can’t definitively tell you whether to buy or not. But, reading between the lines of a 307-point report will give you the info you need to make an informed decision.

We’re proud at Shieldpay to be partnering with Regit, a digital platform that makes buying, selling and maintaining your car easier than ever. By using Regit when you buy a used car, you can make sure that all of the details that the seller has given you (mileage, MOT dates, buyer history etc.) are as advertised. Their expertise can give you even more peace of mind. 


The advertised price isn’t the final price.

If the vehicle passes its inspection, it’s time to talk money.

All advertised prices can be negotiated - so negotiate hard. Also, the inspection will have found improvements that can be made. Negotiate by telling the seller that you will pay the advertised price if they complete the improvements or if they throw in some extras, such as warranty or tax.

In short, the advertised price is a starting point. From there, drop the price as low as you can.


Get a warranty. Get peace of mind.

Even if you’ve done all you can with your own eyes and you’ve got a professional inspection, there can always be gremlins hiding under the bonnet of a used car. So get a warranty. 

Most sellers offer a minimum 3-month but negotiate longer to give you the peace of mind to drive away, safe in the knowledge that any problems will be the seller's concern, not yours.

This comprehensive guide from Which? should help you understand warranties a little better.


Protect yourself.

You’re ready to proceed. You’ve negotiated a price. Now you’ve just got to spend some money. 

One way to lessen that stress is to make all payments securely via Shieldpay. Our payment solution mitigates the risk of fraud by verifying the identity of all parties, holding funds securely and only releasing funds when all sides agree they’re happy.

Sadly, fraudsters exist, especially in the used car market. So don’t go down the road of risky cash payments or blind bank transfers and make sure any payment you make is secure by using Shieldpay to protect you.


If it feels wrong, it probably is.

As we know, buying a used car has many pitfalls and, regrettably, there are people out there who are looking to make a fool out of you and your purchase.

So, even if you’re an expert, if at any point the car, the seller or the process feels wrong, walk away. The used car market is enormous and there are many great cars being sold by honest people at fair prices. So if this one has you doubting, look again elsewhere.


Find out more about Shieldpay, or let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment or chatting to us on Twitter, we'd love to hear from you! 

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