Buying a car

There is so much choice available these days, that buying a car can be a daunting prospect. How do you know if you are getting a good deal and will you have any support if there are any problems?

The motor trade seems to attract its fair share of crooks, rogues and conmen. So to avoid getting ripped off, read all about the various sources for buying a car.

The main franchised dealers are generally at the more expensive end of the market, however, their customer support should give you peace of mind. Buying privately can land you a bargain, but you also take on a degree of risk.

Find out about the pros and cons of buying from the various sources:
(extracts from excellent Driving section of the Sunday Times website)

Franchised Dealer
Independent Used Car Dealer
Classified Adverts
The Internet
Supersite or Car Supermarket
Auctions
"Scratch" Dealers

Franchised dealer

Definitely the place to go to if you are at all nervous about buying a car, and regulated by the Consumer Protection Act. The car manufacturers that they represent insist on high standards of service, and reward - or penalise - dealers on a number of issues ranging from sales performance, through quality of stock to customer satisfaction. They are a one-stop shop and offer new and used car sales, part-exchange facilities, parts and service support, finance schemes, accessory sales, specialist knowledge and, if things turn sour, the full weight of the manufacturer's customer services department. Read more

Independent Used Car Dealer

An independent dealer is not allied to any car manufacturer but like franchised dealers is regulated by the Consumer Protection Act. Good ones follow the Society of Motor Traders and Manufacturers (SMMT) or Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) codes of practice, sell thoroughly documented used cars and abide by the highest standards of customer service. Some choose to specialise in particular marques or types of car. Such dealers are good sources of quality used cars with higher than average mileages or in slightly less than perfect condition and their prices tend to be lower than franchised dealers. Read more

Classified Adverts

Private sales are a wonderful source of quality bargains - newspapers such as the Times and Sunday Times carry classified advertising at the high end of the market, with many rare and exclusive models on their pages (these can also be accessed online through applications such as our Used Car Locator.

However, private sales can also be a source of expensive nightmares - despite the fact that they have virtually no protection under consumer law, many private people buy from private sellers, some of them crooked motor traders in disguise. Read more

The Internet

A recent investigation by the Consumers’ Association revealed that, despite significant discounts offered by internet car retailers, very few motorists are availing themselves of the opportunity to save cash by going through with an online transaction. The internet can offer some incredible deals and is a sensible route for people looking to buy outside the high-pressure showroom environment. Although the lack of personal contact puts some people off, the absence of any “hard-sell” and the ability to find the best price without having to go through a tortuous haggling process is very appealing. Read more

Supersite or Car Supermarket

These huge, sprawling dealers sell some of the cheapest late-letter cars in the country. The stock usually numbers as many as 1,000 cars, most less than one year-old and so still covered by the manufacturer's first-year guarantee. The cars come from auctions, daily rental fleets, company fleets and even franchised dealers. Typical marques include Rover, Vauxhall, Renault, Ford and Fiat. Margins are low so you can't haggle the prices any lower. However, you'll be offered just the trade price for your old part-exchange. Read more

Auctions

Auctions have had a bad press over the years but much of it centres on less reputable auctions of older, tattier cars. Quality auction houses disposing of cars under four years old offer surprisingly little risk to the knowledgeable buyer and some serious bargains. Look for a condition report on the car's window. This will describe the car, state its mileage and year of registration and disclose any major mechanical faults. You will have about seven days in which to reject the car if it is not as described or its mileage is incorrect but you will have just an hour or so after the sale ends to reject it for serious mechanical faults. Read more

Scratch Dealers

These are the dealers who operate out of Portakabins, on pieces of waste ground. They have no discernible trading name but plenty of fluttering bunting. They belong to no trade association and they have little appreciation of aftersales service. Their cars' odometers carry mileage disclaimer stickers that release them from all responsibility should they be clocked. You'd be better off buying privately, direct from the current keeper rather than from someone who is merely the final link in a grubby trade chain that stretches back who knows how far. Read more

Buying a car

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