How to buy a car for less

Updated on 18 July 2014

A car is a significant purchase. Take your time and ensure that you get the best possible deal.

Do your research

Be prepared
If you know what price you should expect to pay you'll stand less chance of being ripped off. Search big car sales sites like Auto Trader to make sure you’re paying the best price. You should also check sites like Parkers and What Car?, and national car dealers, to ensure that you know exactly how much a used car is likely to cost you.

Get the right car for you!
Whether a petrol or diesel car is more cost effective depends on how far you drive. The cost of diesel per mile is lower than petrol, but the price of a diesel car is higher. Find out how far you need to drive to break even using this cost calculator.

It also helps if you factor in depreciation, as diesel cars tend not to depreciate at the same rate, and can also be cheaper to insure.

Buy at an auction

Auctions aren’t the back street affairs they used to be – they are now multi-million pound businesses. But you could still pick up a bargain.

Read How to buy a car at auction for the full lowdown.

Consider leasing instead of buying

Do the maths
The big benefit of leasing a car is that you get a new car for less than you would be shelling out if you bought one.

So before you sign up to any deal, make sure you are completely clear on just how much you are going to be spending, an ensure that it does indeed present a better deal than buying a new car.

Get the right insurance
Fully comprehensive insurance is compulsory if you take out a Personal Contract Hire. This is because in the event of an accident, it ensures that the party with the ‘insurable interest' (who they pay in the event of an accident; i.e., the rental company) will be compensated for any damage incurred.

Consider servicing
Servicing of the car is not included, although you can buy a maintenance package through the company which includes servicing. The costs of this in comparison with going directly to the dealer vary. So shop around before you decide.

Make sure you read your contract
There are also possible issues that could arise when returning your car, which is why it is vital you read the contract carefully before signing anything, especially the wear and tear policy.

The term 'wear and tear' is rather abstract, and what looks like just a few stone chips to you may be interpreted as a deep scratch by the company. If any repairs are needed, you will be charged.

For more on leasing, see Car finance options.

Get a great deal

Buy it interest-free
You can save money by putting the car on an interest-free card. If you can, use a 0% on purchases card to buy the car. Then, when the interest-free period runs out, move the balance to a 0% on balance transfers card.

Avoid dealer financing
Taking out a loan through a dealer means that you'll pay more interest as they will take a cut as well as the loan provider.

If you get a loan through a dealer, you’ll pay interest to the loan provider and a cut to the dealer. Get a competitive personal loan instead.

Haggle
Remember, this is a big purchase so even a small discount is worth getting. Do your research on what the car is worth so you are prepared going in, but also the market situation, and how likely the dealer will be to offer you a discount if you stand your ground.

Be prepared to walk away.

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