How to Find the Right Used Car For You After Lockdown
With lockdown finally behind us, the question becomes: what’s next? You might be thinking of buying a used car like many people are now and have been across all three lockdowns. In fact, during the third lockdown, the used car market was stronger than new cars. It’s unsurprising, given that COVID-19 resulted in companies cutting jobs and salaries, leaving second-hand vehicles the only option for many drivers.
If you’re thinking about purchasing a used car, where do you start? How do you make sure you’re getting the best car for you? Here we’ve rounded up some essential tips on how to get the most out of your budget.
But why a used car?
One of the perks of buying a shiny, brand new car is the experience of getting to browse the car showroom, meet a salesperson and jump in for a test drive. Of course, this wasn’t possible in lockdown where transactions were done 100% online, and there’s a good chance that while showrooms will be open, people will continue to be wary and rely on online purchases. Used cars are also great as usually customers don’t have to get into big finance agreements or put large deposits down due to the lower prices, making it a much more on-demand way of replacing a car in an emergency.
The biggest reason car sales are expected to grow is the reluctance to use public transport. Social distancing has become the norm, and until the world recovers to a point where it’s not recommended, people will avoid public transport and its hygiene issues. This means that attitudes are changing towards owning your own set of affordable wheels, particularly in the cities where it was previously unnecessary. A car is a self-contained space designed just for you, it’s one of the only ways to fully social distance.
1. Set a budget
Before you do anything, you need to work out how much you are willing and able to spend on a used car. A lot of cars are bought on finance and paid in regular instalments making it much easier to afford, or you can buy it outright if you have the funds available. Take into account your household budget (see our guide to budgeting), and the running costs of your future car. It’s absolutely crucial that you’re realistic about your budget and what you can afford, especially if you have little to no savings or could face income changes.
2. Shop online
During the lockdowns, most dealerships and private sellers relied solely on online sales and have likely learnt a lot from the experience. Many will offer personalised videos for you to view the car, as well as giving you a virtual tour via video chat to ensure you’re comfortable with your purchase. While it’s definitely not the same as getting to test drive it yourself, it’s a much easier and quicker method for when you just don’t have the time or means to visit a dealership. There are tons of online car marketplaces like BuyaCar and Auto Trader. You also have the broader marketplaces like Ebay or Gumtree.
3. Do your research
Research is much easier when you have a particular car make and model in mind, so you may prefer to research as you’re shopping around, rather than before. Ideally, research everything you can possibly think of, including the big choice between petrol, diesel and electric.
One of the things that are usually forgotten is researching replacement parts. Naturally, used cars are more likely to need new parts than brand new cars so it’s a good idea to make sure they can be purchased locally, as overseas shipping can push up costs in the long term. Unfortunately, many small businesses have closed as a result of COVID, so double-check the places you usually use for replacement parts and mechanical work (if you have them).
4. Shop smart and always check the finer details
Shopping for a car is a complex process that requires you to pay attention to every detail advertised and even the ones that aren’t. You have to find out whether the vehicle still has a service plan and warranty and when they’ll expire - for all you know, it could be next week. You’re going to have to dig a little bit deeper into your potential new car’s paperwork and fine print to ensure you’re not getting ripped off or misled. Just because it has a roadworthy certificate, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a ton of other problems, just that it meets minimum safety requirements.
5. Get a brief vehicle history before purchasing
It’s always a good idea to request the vehicle’s complete history before you buy it. Often mechanical issues aren’t advertised or even mentioned in the sale of a vehicle, so the service history will fill in the blanks. This is information about the car’s health and you can find out where and when the car was last serviced, as well as what exactly was done to help you avoid any potential scams. In addition, you can view a car’s MOT history online for free using https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-history. Here you can view previous failures and advisory notes for minor problems on the car.
6. Take precautions
Even post-lockdown, stay safe and take all the necessary precautions. Ask the seller or current owner whether or not they’ve disinfected the car in advance. It’s also worth taking your own sanitiser and using it on the door handles, gear stick, steering wheel and dashboard - wherever you might touch the most.
Buying a used car can often be the better option for those looking to replace their old one, but the risks associated can be off putting. Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll find the idea of shopping for a used car much easier.
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