What are pre-registered cars?

What is a pre-registered car? Everything you need to know before buying one

Simon Ostler James Mills
Sep 11, 2020

Looking for a new car? Disappointed that the brand new model you've been dreaming about is too expensive? You shouldn't give up hope just yet, because you might find that same car falls back within your budget by shifting focus from brand new cars to pre-registered cars.

Ever heard a friend boasting about what a great deal they got when buying a pre-registered car? Perhaps you’ve seen adverts for discounted pre-registered models? In either case, it’s likely that talk of saving thousands of pounds got your interest – after all, who doesn’t like bagging a bargain?

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Well you'll be pleased to know that Buyacar has got a catalogue of 60 pre-registered cars currently available, with thousands of pounds to be saved off the price of equivalent brand new models. But you may be wondering what a pre-registered car actually is, or indeed how you actually go about buying one.

Read on for all the details, and find out how you can stretch out your budget to get your hands on a practically new car, either the one you were hoping for, or perhaps something even better.

What is a pre-registered car?

Pre-registered cars are initially bought and owned by a car dealer, broker or leasing company and that dealer’s details will appear on the vehicle’s logbook (or V5C) as a registered owner. Therefore, when a customer purchases the car they will count as the second owner, essentially making it a 'used' car - even though it may only show a handful of miles on the clock.

It's this difference between 'used' and 'new' that makes pre-registered cars cheaper, as the initial depreciation that a new car will suffer as soon as you turn on the ignition for the first time will have already occurred - saving you from having to take that financial hit and instead allowing you to benefit from it.

The reason dealers buy these cars first is due to the financial incentives offered to them by manufacturers, who of course appreciate the additional 'sales' for their own books in order to meet sales targets. These cars will then be held in stock on forecourts and in many cases will not be driven at all - so they should have precious few miles on them and won’t have been used for customer test drives.

The basic upshot here is that opting for a pre-registered car will get you something that is practically brand new, although you won't be the first registered owner.

What happens to pre-registered cars?

Pre-registered cars will initially have been up for sale as new cars. If for whatever reason a dealership ends up with remaining stock, it can then choose to register these cars in order to pose them as 'sold' on a technicality. The fact these cars will have been sat on the forecourt for an extended period and have now been registered by the dealership serves to lower the price of the car considerably.

For a car to qualify as pre-registered, it shouldn’t be more than six months old or have more than 200 miles on the clock. Once it has gone beyond that threshold, it is then put up for sale as a used car, so you can still find 'used' cars with less than 200 miles on the clock that are older than six months if you're lucky. 

What sort of discounts come with pre-registered cars?

Discounts on pre-registered cars can be anywhere between 5-25% which can add up to several thousands of pounds if you're looking at a larger family car like a Nissan Qashqai or Volkswagen Tiguan, but these discounts can vary, so we'd recommend shopping around if you want to maximise your savings.

In the end, the sum of the discount will boil down to how keen the seller is to move thevehicle on. If it's been sat on the forecourt for five months then they will probably be quite keen, but it's always worth a quick haggle to see just how low they will go.

New car deals vs pre-registered

With all that said, it would be wrong to assume that going for a pre-registered car is the best way to secure a big discount, there are always savings to be made, even if you decide to go for something brand new.

Manufacturers are always interested in doing a deal and will often slap large discounts on new cars for cash buyers, but they will also offer what's known as a deposit contribution for customers looking for a finance deal. In both instances, you will be saving money on the price of a new car and that's not to be sniffed at.

However there are other considerations like road tax that you should take into account when considering whether to go for a new car or a pre-registered model. On the road (OTR) costs will often inflate the price of a new car, as you are required to pay for the car's initial registration and the first year of road tax - the cost of which will depend on the CO2 emissions of the car, but a petrol-engined Ford Fiesta with 115g/km of emissions would add £160 to the price tag.

Those OTR costs are taken away if you decide to go pre-registered.

We're always updating our offers here on BuyaCar, and our pre-registered deals often offer some substantial discounts over new car prices. Savings on a pre-registered Mercedes A-Class for example can be as much as £6,000 on the price of a brand new model, with finance coming in £50 per month cheaper as well.

Are pre-registered cars the same as ex-demo cars?

First things first, the dealer is obliged to declare the status and history of the car to the buyer. The idea of a pre-registered model is that it should feel brand new, so a pre-registered car can only be marketed as such if it has not been used. If you are purchasing a vehicle that has been used as a demo or courtesy car, it should be clearly stated and you should expect to see a lower price tag.

It's not always easy to make the distinction, but the best way to tell the difference by checking the car's mileage. A genuine pre-registered car will have only covered a handful of miles on the clock - and certainly no more than 200

A demonstrator or courtesy car may have covered a few thousand miles in the hands of another user which is sure have taken off the shine somewhat. It should make a major difference to the price and you should treat any dealings as such.

What are the disadvantages of a pre-registered car?

Some of us know what we want, and we want it just so. For that reason it's safe to say that going down the pre-registered route will not be for everyone. You can’t be fussy about the colour, engine, gearbox and options fitted to a pre-registered car because you can only choose from what’s for sale, although there will normally some variety of choice here. It's worth remembering that a pre-registered car is effectively second hand, you're buying off the dealer and you'll be indicated as the second owner of the car.

That all changes if you're ordering a new car though, and you can set yourself free on the configurator and build the perfect new car exactly as you want it. This will appeal to some, and in that case this decision will be an easy one to make. You can also expect to get some kind of discount from the manufacturer too, whether that's a straight-up cash reduction or via a finance deposit contribution.

It's also worth baring in mind that, due to the standard discount you get with a pre-registered car, finance deals may not differ hugely from what you'd get with a brand new car. So if you are intending to take a finance package it may be worth checking the size of deposit contributions before providing your signature.

A further consideration is the impact on the warranty. The manufacturer warranty will have begun the day the vehicle was first registered – not with you, but the dealer. Given that a pre-registered car could be up to six months old, that means you may lose out on a significant period of cover. Try haggling over this point, or see if the dealer will put additional cover in place.

It also pays to be mindful of the impact on insurance. Some insurers will replace brand new cars with like-for-like models for a period of time, but not with a pre-registered car because it is considered second-hand. This is where it could be wise to use a GAP insurance product to cover the shortfall between motor insurance pay out and the price of an equivalent replacement vehicle.


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