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Ten rules for buying a car

By Stephen Turvil | March 30, 2023


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Car buying tips that make you feel confident on the forecourt. Get the right car, at the right price, from the right dealer thanks to our easy to follow tips.

Ten rules for buying a car

Our ten simple rules help you buy the right car, at the right price, at the right dealer. They help you feel more confident, too.

Rule one: choose the right car

Pick a car that suits your lifestyle and don’t be easily swayed by a dealer that tries to sell you an unsuitable alternative. The dealer may bombard you with reasons an alternate vehicle is more suitable but they may simply be trying to secure a quick sale or meet a specific target.

Rule two: set a realistic budget

Calculate what you can afford to spend buying and running a car, then stick to this budget. Potential costs if you buy on finance include a deposit, monthly payments, interest, and a purchase payment. You also have to pay for road tax, insurance, fuel, repairs, and MOTs whether you buy a vehicle via finance or outright. Note too that some costs might rise over time. Never let the dealer convince you to spend more than you can sensibly afford.

Rule three: inspect the car carefully

Once you have found a car of interest check it for faults. For example check the tyres, bodywork, and equipment while parked. On the test drive note poor performance, weird noises, and strange vibrations from the engine, transmission, and suspension in particular. If you are not mechanically minded, consider having the car checked by someone in the know.

Rule four: be careful what you sign

Carefully read, understand, and consider any document the dealer asks you to sign. Do not sign unless you fully accept the conditions. There is no need to sign anything to get a finance quote, to ‘hold the price’ of the vehicle while you consider it overnight or get a trade-in value for any current car.

Rule five: beware the deposit

Paying a deposit might commit you to buying the vehicle. If you’re not yet ready to commit, make sure your deposit is fully refundable if you change your mind on the car, like it is with our partners heycar.

Rule six: keep the dealer in check

Never let the dealer dominate the sales process, force your hand, or treat you as a subordinate. You are the customer. You have the money. You make the decisions. Be respectful but make sure that the dealer has answered any questions in an easy to understand and digestible manner.

Rule seven: check the price

Before negotiating the terms of sale, confirm the car’s market value via an independent price guide.

Rule eight: never be rushed

The dealer might try to rush you into buying a car by saying there is ‘another customer’ that wants it now or the ‘price goes up tomorrow’. Irrespective of whether such statements are true, there is no rush to make a wrong decision. Buying in haste rarely works out well. Make a decision in your own good time. 

Rule nine: get the terms of sale in writing

When buying a vehicle, get the terms of sale in writing so the dealer cannot ‘forget’ anything at a later date. Perhaps, for example, the dealer offers to service the vehicle for free and fit new tyres at cost. If such things are not confirmed in writing, there is no evidence they were agreed and the dealer may backtrack.

Rule ten: walk away if necessary

Walk away if the vehicle, terms of sale, or dealer are unsatisfactory. There are countless alternatives readily available.

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