|"Bessie" on Camping duty in the Lake District|
So - the process started again. We started looking at the used car ads - no way were we going to buy anything brand new - yes we have money in savings which would have purchased something new from a posh dealership, but we no longer feel we want to justify the depreciation on a brand new car - the amount they lose in value as soon as you take them off the forecourt is terrifying. I paid best part of £12,000 for mine when I bought new 6 years ago - if I wanted to replace like-for-like with the same age and model now I would pay well under half that. To buy the same spec now, brand new, would cost me over 17k - yet within the first few thousand miles that value would drop to a shade over 13k. Yes, a new car is shiny, and you get the thrill of being the first name on the log book, but is it in the least frugal, or even vaguely budget-friendly? No. There are other costs with new cars as well - in order to keep the warranty you'll be tied to approved dealer servicing - and there are often huge penalties that come along with those "too good to be true" finance or leasing packages too - woe betide if you have an accident, even if it's someone elses fault sometimes...
|This is why a 3-door car is sometimes useful...|
The search was remarkably painless in the event. We looked at a few of the car-sales websites - Autotrader and Exchange & Mart are good ones nationally which allow you to tailor a search to precisely what you're after. You can even stipulate all cars within a certain band of VED (road tax) if you want! We set the search area to a radius of 20 miles at home, knowing this would also cover the area near to where I work on a regular basis, thus hopefully cutting the cost of actually going to look at anything that caught our eye. We spotted a nice looking C3 fairly quickly - up for sale for £2,390 - 3 years newer than MrEH's current steed, but more importantly with nearly 100,000 less miles on the clock! Not *quite* such a high-spec model - but then the armrests and additional 12v socket that we're losing are hardly game-changers - but in an even lower tax-bracket than we've been used to at just £20 a year! I went to look, (Mr EH had gone to the pub with some workmates - it's alright for some, eh? - in all seriousness there is a simple reason for this - I know rather more about buying cars than he does, having done it a fair number of times in the 23 years I've been driving, so can ask the right questions and (hopefully) know what I'm looking for on the paperwork - that's the theory, anyway!) took her for a test drive, and after a relatively short-lived bit of negotiation, agreed to pay £2,000 plus the current car in part-ex. Sometimes heavy negotiation around such things as a tank of fuel, or a service, is appropriate, but this time it wasn't - I named what we had in the pot to pay, and after some further chat, the dealer agreed to accept that.
|"Gracie" waiting patiently for her ferry to the Hebrides...!|
- If the car has less than 6 months MoT Test remaining, be very wary of a dealer who refuses to have a fresh one done for you. If he's confident that a car is good, he'll have no qualms getting a years fresh MoT on it from the start - this chap had done it as soon as it expired in spite of having no requirement to do so.
- Be cautious of buying from a private seller - they have little to lose if things go wrong, whereas a good dealer will be wary of having his reputation affected. More often than not a small dealership will offer better prices than a private seller in any case.
- Ask about such things as how many keys a car has - a new chipped key from a main dealer will cost anything from £70 upwards! If there is air-con, check that it works - if it doesn't ask if they will get it re-gassed, or ask for a discount on the price to reflect this needing doing.
- Check there is a spare tyre present, and check that the same spare tyre is present when you go to collect the vehicle. Go on, ask me how I know about this one, I dare you! ;-)
- DON'T TELL LIES ABOUT YOUR PART EXCHANGE VEHICLE. If you say it starts first turn of the key, and the first time the dealer tries to move it in the workshop it takes five attempts and a set of jumpleads, he WILL come after you. It's as simple as that, and you'll deserve it. If there is stuff that he needs to know to fairly evaulate what he's paying on it, tell him. It is however the dealer's responsibility in my opinion to ask about such things as service history, and whether anything has been drawn to your attention as needing attention on the car. If there is a fault which you know could endanger someone driving it, you MUST mention it. Never mind the legalities - treat your conscience kindly.
- Don't be afraid to barter - if a dealer puts a price of £2,500 on a car, the very most he is expecting to get for it is £2,300, and he's paid an awful lot less than that! Research trade prices for the make and model you're looking at so you have an idea what the margins are.
- A silly one - if you get into a car and it has a funny smell that isn't just cleaning products, walk away. You'll spend the rest of the time you have it freezing your ass off as you drive around with the windows open.
- If you go to look at a car and get a feeling that something isn't right - walk away, you are almost certainly right!
- GET AN HPI CHECK! Or, better still, ask the dealer to do so. Most reputable ones will. This is the thing that confirms that your intended set of wheels hasn't been written off previously in an accident, and doesn't have any finance owing.
- Check out a car head on from the front - make sure everything looks even and there are no gaps on one side of the bonnet for example, and that it sits square. Do the same from the back. If it doesn't look right - walk away.
- Think through beforehand what your budget is, and how much you want for your car if you're part-ex'ing, but again, do it realistically, and again, research trade prices so you know what's reasonable - pushing your luck a little is fine, making a fool of yourself isn't.
- Don't assume that the dealer is going to try and rip you off. There are some genuine nice-guys selling cars out there, they know that if they do you a good deal, and sell you a good car, you'll tell your friends, neighbours and family how impressed you were.
Above all, don't be seduced by shiny toys if you're genuinely on a budget or trying to be frugal. Just because you have money in savings doesn't mean it's sensible to spend it on something which will instantly lose 25% of its value - why not let someone less frugal and thrifty than you take that hit, the savings from buying a car 6 months to a year old are astonishing - just think what you could do with that extra 4k you'd save on the example above - home improvements maybe? Perhaps that cosy log-burner that would over time, help you save yet more money on heating your home? That'd put a smile on your face when you were driving home in your second hand bargain, wouldn't it now?