Nine tips for buying a used car: how to secure a great deal

Don't get stung - read our tips for buying your next used car

Murray Scullion
Dec 10, 2018

Buying a used car has changed over the years. In a time gone past, you would have to nipped down to your local newsagent (if you were born after 2000, it’s what we had instead of vape shops) and you’d pick up your local rag, or a specialist magazine.

You’d then go trawling through the pages, pick a car that’s near you, and go out and have a look at it. You’d probably drink weak tea through a styrofoam cup.

Now, the act of buying a car, thanks to the internet has changed things. However, the best practises of buying a used car remain the same. Here are nine tips for buying your next used car.

Set a budget

This is by far and away the most important thing to remember when searching for a new car, or a used one.

Research from financial studies show that, with your savings hat on, you should spend between 15-20% of your salary on a car. In layman’s terms, this is a sensible figure to pick if you want something cheap, affordable, and good for your bank balance. And you want to own outright.

For instance, if you earn £25,000 a year, and you’re just looking for a cheap and reliable run around, £5,000 is good starting place. For this kind of cash, you'll be looking at four-year old Vauxhall Corsas, three-year old VW up!s, or one-year old Dacia Sanderos.

Don’t forget that you can finance a car too. So if you’re not bothered about paying up front for a car, you can use PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) to your advantage. If your take home every month is £1698, 15% is around £250 a month. This gives you many more options - from Mini Coopers, to Peugeot 3008s, as well as premium cars like Audi A6s.

Do your research

If you’ve got your eye on something, and you can afford it, the next step is to read a review or two. These give you a jist of what the car is like to be in, as well as how practical it is, and how well it drives.

Our reviews are written by motoring journalists who have spent years inside of cars and testing every nook and cranny. Our most popular reviews are for the Mercedes A-Class, Ford Fiesta, and Nissan Qashqai.


You don’t necessarily think of warranties when you think of used cars, but, warranties from car manufacturers are getting longer and longer. Kia, for instance, offers a seven-year warranty on its cars, which can be transferred between owners. So if you buy a four-year old Kia Sportage, it will still have three-years’ worth of warranty left on it.

Click here to read a list of cars with seven-year warranties, or click here to read a list of cars with a five-year warranties.

Every vehicle supplied by BuyaCar comes with at least a 30-day warranty. And if you buy with BuyaCar, your warranty can be extended when you order your car for additional peace of mind. BuyaCar offers a comprehensive Warrantywise Premium Plus package, which can be added to a finance agreement, for an amount each month.

Running costs

Once you’ve got an idea of what car you’re looking for, look at the running costs. How much fuel a car will use is imperative to your purse strings, and is easy to find out as well, as MPG (miles per gallon) figures are covered in our reviews. For instance, while sporting offerings with large engines become more affordable to buy on the used market, they still use more fuel.

Premium brands like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, generally cost more to service and fix than cheaper brands like Ford  or Vauxhall too.


Insurance is a legal-requirement. Everyone has to have it, and everyone knows of an insurance cost horror story. If you’re below 25, and you can afford something in a high-insurance rating, do remember that, unsurprisingly, it will cost you a lot to insure.

Generally, you’ll need to arrange insurance for a new purchase before taking delivery, or picking up a new car. If you’re buying on finance, then guaranteed asset protection (GAP) insurance may be worth considering. This offers extra protection should your car be written off, covering any shortfall between your insurance payout and the amount left outstanding on your finance. At the beginning of a PCP agreement in particular, this shortfall can be a sizeable amount.

Don’t just go with what you know

It never hurts to look around does it? Just because you’ve owned Fords for the last 15 years, doesn’t mean your next car has to be one.

Once again, by reading our reviews, you might be surprised. Car clichés, like other clichés, are just old codswallop. Are French cars cheap and nasty? No. Are German cars the modicum of build-quality and reliability? Not always.


Speaking of reliability, it’s easier than ever to check a car’s reliability. Sister publication Auto Express runs a survey called Driver Power. This takes things into consideration like reliability, owner happiness, and technology.


Picked a budget? Looked at running costs, insurance, reliability, and insurance? Great, all you need to do now is whittle the list down to a top five or ten. Don’t forget to pick with your heart as well as your head - it’ll be parked outside your home every day.

Don’t rush into a decision

Finally, once you’ve picked a car, don’t rush into buying it. If you’re picking something ultra rare, you might struggle to find another one.

However, most cars in the UK sell in their thousands. Ford sold 94,533 Fiestas in Britain in 2017. So if you can’t find a car in just the right colour, or the exact specification you want, don’t settle. One will pop up on the market soon enough.


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