How to negotiate car price when buying a used car

Here are some tips on what to do when buying a used car. Before you start negotiating you need to follow these simple steps. The below will make sure that you’ve done all of your research and know exactly what you want.

1. Find the right car that fits all of your requirements

Find out as much as you can about the car that you want. Don’t just be tempted by colour or looks as there is a lot more to a car than this. Think about insurance bracket, and how much that is, the road tax annual fee, any common faults with the particular car you are looking at. Most google searches with the word “review” after will find you some good information. For example type in “2009 Ford Fiesta Review”. Most websites will then enable you to click in and find the exact model you want.

2. Check the price

What sort of price are you expected to pay for the car your looking at? There are a few different options here. The best way is to look on Auto Trader & eBay motors and get a feel for what year & mileage you can get for your budget. There will be quite a spread depending on documentation, condition and who is selling it (trader vs private). Either way you can get a good idea within £1000. Another way is to visit as they offer a valuation service free of charge.

3. Check out who the seller is

Dealer: when you buy from a dealer, you will be paying more for the car than from a private seller. However you do benefit from having legal protection should there be a problem with the car once purchased. By law, they have to give at least 3 months warranty and sometimes you can claim off them up to 6 months after purchase. Also, again, a quick google search of the garage/dealer will bring up any horror stories.

Private seller: If you call a “private seller” ask “Is your car still for sale?”. If they say “which one?” then you know you are dealing with a dealer/trader that is trying to impersonate a private seller, thus avoiding legal obligation to provide warranty etc. However, if they are a genuine private seller, make sure you go to their home to view the car and ensure the V5 log book is registered at the same address as where you are.

4. Look over the car

Make sure you go in the daylight and not when it has been raining. Rain covers up most scratches and dents. Check all electrics, air conditioning, media unit etc. Check the oil under the bonnet both on the dip stick – to see if there is a sufficient quantity – and where the oil goes in (oil logo on black cap). Unscrew this and check to see if there is a creamy sludge around the rim of the cap – this can be a sign of the head gasket going. If the car has stood for a long time this can occur also due to condensation. If you’re at all unsure then take someone who is mechanically minded with you.

5. Test drive

Make sure you are insured on the vehicle and can prove this to the seller. Most people with fully comprehensive cover are covered 3rd party on another insured vehicle. If it is SWORN off the road then you are not insured until the vehicle is insured. Take the car for a lengthy test drive and get it up to 70mph as this is when overheating problems can occur and a local round the block trip would not show this. Turn the radio and any heaters/fans off so you can listen carefully for any noises. In particular listen out for knocking noises, whirring noises, ticking noises and feel for vibration on the steering wheel. Anything that “doesn’t sound right” usually is not!

6. Check the mileage

The easiest way to check the mileage is to go on the Government Website.

All you need to do is enter the registration, and last MOT test number and this will bring up all the old MOT’s, what was done and the mileage at each test. Also, check that the service history correlates with the MOT mileages. Remember, you only have an MOT once the car is 3 years old. If buying a car within the 3 year period, check the service history and look at the steering wheel, pedals, seats and satisfy yourself that the wear and tear on these areas are consistent with the mileage on the car.

7. Check the paperwork

Check the V5 log book. This will show the make and model of the car, who the current registered keeper is and how many former keepers the car has. Also, it will have a chassis or vin number. Make sure you check this number against the number in the bottom of the passenger side windscreen. They HAVE TO both match, if not it could be stolen or a clone. Also check the MOT and TAX.

9. HPI check

HPI checks are extremely important. This check will tell you if the car has anything untoward that you need to know. For example, it will flag if the car has finance recorded against it, whether it is stolen or if it has been in a major accident in the past. The checks cost up to £15 and are available instantly – this could be the best £15 you ever spent. Only do this check when you are happy with everything else first and want to buy the car.

And lastly...

10. Be a good buyer

Turn up for your appointment on time and do your homework & checks before you agree to see the car. This will enable you to make swift decisions and offering to take the car away there and then puts you in a better negotiating position. If you need a loan or finance, make sure you have this in place before you view the car. If everything adds up and your happy – offer the seller a cash deposit, and make sure you get a receipt for this. Then the easiest, most secure way of making a payment is via direct internet transfer (with the cash deposit deducted).