Insider's Guides > Where to Buy a Car


Where to Buy a Car
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Confidence vs Cost

There are hundreds of thousands of used cars for sale. Your next car is out there somewhere. But how to find it, and where to buy it?

Before you start looking around, ask yourself one question. Do you want:

  • Maximum value - the most car for the least money?
  • Maximum confidence - legal protection, warranties and after-sales back-up?

The value route leads towards buying privately or pitting your wits against the motor trade at a car auction. Take the confidence route and you?ll follow the majority of motorists by buying from a dealer.

The retail marketplace ranges from franchised dealers through the growing number of car supermarkets, down to the lower tiers of independent dealers.

You pay more if you buy retail: typical dealer mark-ups are 1000 or so, covering business overheads, resale costs (valeting, servicing), VAT and profit margin. But you get strong legal protection and a fair hearing if anything goes wrong.

Buying from a dealer, your rights are similar to when purchasing a new car. The Sale of Goods Act, which regulates retail transactions, requires a car to be "of satisfactory quality" - free from defects except any disclosed by the seller or discovered by you. The car must be "as described" - so there?s comeback if an apparently one-owner low-mileage vehicle turns out to be a multi-owner high-miler. And it must be "fit for any normal purpose".

Prices are lower if you?re buying privately, and lowest of all at car auctions. But legal protection is limited, and it can be difficult to get a satisfactory result if you end up with a 'wrong un'.