5 Ways to Get a Better Deal When Buying a Used Car

5 Ways to Get a Better Deal When Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car can be a peculiar experience because there’s always that strange sense the seller knows a bit more than you do; like you’re entering a world that’s slightly alien where those who know their stuff are well ahead of you.

That’s what some sellers want us to think anyway.

The truth is there are at least 5 steps you can take to get a better deal and feel really confident going into a dealership or meeting a private seller.

Understand That You Don’t Need to Rush

Dealerships and private sellers give you literally thousands of options, and that’s why getting a good deal has actually become easier in recent years.

The pool is so large that you aren’t under as much pressure to buy on the day.  So when it comes to bartering, the seller has lost that “buy it today or it’s gone forever” quote.  Truth is, you can find other good deals online or at a dealership down the road.


What you might say: “I want to buy today,  but there are a lot of other options and I’ve got a few other viewings scheduled.”

Know How to Do Basic Tests

This can benefit you in two ways: Firstly, you’re getting the information you need to make sure you’re not being ripped off; second, sellers always respect an informed buyer being thorough. If you find any faults, then ask for the seller to pay for them to be fixed or knock the cost off the final price.


Push the car down on every wheel. If the suspension works the car will pop back up into position.


Turn the car on and rev the engine. Check the exhaust fumes.

  • If you see blue smoke the engine is burning oil.
  • If you see lots of white smoke then coolant could be burning as well.
  • Oh dear if there’s black smoke – the engine is pulling too much fuel through.

If you see any of these exhaust issues, then the vehicle could be more trouble than it’s worth. At the very least get a mechanic in to find the cause.


Test Drive

Drive the car to a hill and see how it performs. Check how well the brakes work. If the car veers to one side, you’re probably looking at at least one new brake pad needed. Get onto a fast road and listen for engine noises that don’t sound in time.

Know What Those Problems Might Cost

There are some great online resources like Breakeryard that list almost every model of car, their common faults, and how much that’s going to cost you.

If you can go into a viewing with this kind of information, the chances of getting a better deal are hugely improved.

Case Example:

You read about a common fault often reported after 100,000 miles.

The car you’re viewing has hit 110,000 but that fault hasn’t been remedied.


You have every right to get that cost reduced from the asking price. If the seller says no then head for the exit.

Show The Seller You’ve Done Your Research

If you turn up with a basic test checklist and a list of common faults for that model, an honest seller will make an effort to put you at ease. A dishonest one will start to worry.

Chat to the seller about other models you have looked at online and why this car is the one you want.

However, they need to know that the car will have to pass your tests. After all, buying a car is a big investment and you’re not about to take it lightly.

Make a Low Offer, But Know The Car’s Value

Starting with a low offer is a fairly obvious point to make, but you need to know exactly what defines a low offer – and the seller’s valuation might not give you the best indication! It’s better to get the car’s registration and use a valuation tool like this one to really know what it’s worth.


Now you know

These 5 tips will help you get a better deal on a used car, with the real emphasis on good preparation. If you’re feeling more confident try this RAC quiz to see how ready you really are.

Featured photo credit: RAC via

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