By far and away the best way to buy a used car is from a recognised dealer but across the country everyday people buy and sell cars privately. This method might work sometimes but the pitfalls get bigger and bigger as cars become more and more complex.
The Old Days
Back when cars were a little more simple it was generally fairly easy to have look around a car, start it up, maybe have a run down the road and then be reasonably happy the car was OK to buy. You could open the bonnet and actually see the engine which meant you could see if it was rusty or covered in oil from a leak. Inside the cars you could hear all the noises and bumps while driving along, this meant you would be highly likely to hear any major issues on a short test drive. These things meant private buying was an easier job, back in the 60s and 70s car dealerships were very different places too. Buying a used car from a major dealer was not very common and car salesmen…and they were mostly men back then, were well know for being pushy. This lead to many people avoiding them all together and the private market was the only way to go.
There are a number of potential problems you could find happening these days when buying a privately sold used car. The main one is simply that it is very hard to know if anything is wrong with a car these days until it’s too late. You may have a look around, see the car has a bit of service history and have to make a guess. Because the engines are all insulated, as are the interiors it is harder to see and here anything going wrong. You could find yourself with a big problem a month down the line and have literally no choice but to fix it yourself.
Other problems with buying privately are things like buying in the dark or when its raining. Often the only time the seller can let you come and see it is when they are back from work, in the winter this means seeing a car in the dark and that is really bad idea. You may find the only time they can see you is when it happens to be raining, that is also not a good time to view a car. In both situations you will simply not be able to see any issues with the paint or bodywork. Small dents and fading paint can be very hard to see when the car is wet or hidden by darkness.
Gone are the days of sleazy salesmen trying to fob you off with a car you don’t even want. These days dealerships are bright cheerful places with nice coffee and kids play areas. The salesmen and women are there to help you get a good car and hopefully get you back when you want the next one too. With the rise of social media an unpleasant dealership would soon get a bad reputation and would have to change.
The benefits of buying used from a registered dealer are simple; you get a warranty and you know you are getting a decent car. Yes, you may not be able to haggle quite as much but you won’t have to worry about the car being a wreck underneath. They are open during the day so you can book a visit and go and inspect the car in daylight and if it’s raining you can go the next day. But it is the knowledge that if the car breaks you will have some kind of recourse that really makes this the best option in this day and age.
Most dealerships have cars in all price ranges and can offer finance. Look for a registered dealer rather than a private one if possible, that way you know you are dealing with a big company that have a customer service team as well as all the skills needed to make sure your “new” car is a pleasure to own and not a lemon.