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Advice for buying a car privately

| Insurance

There are certain big purchases that most people make in their lives - big holidays, houses and cars, for example. These kinds of purchases are not to be rushed, otherwise you may end up spending more than intended or getting a bad deal.

When it comes to purchasing a car, there are a couple of avenues you could do down. You could purchase a brand new one direct from the manufacturer or purchase a second hand one from a dealership, private owner or even at auction. It’s likely that, whichever avenue you choose, you’ll come away with a car that you love, however, there are pros and cons of each option.

Many people decide to buy their car through a private owner instead of through a dealership. Generally, you can save money by doing this and may get a similar vehicle at a lower price, but you may also be feeling a bit worried about making such a big purchase in this way. That’s why this guide is full of advice and tips to show you how you can buy your next car privately.

Where to look

So you know that you want to buy a car from a private owner, but how do you go about finding vehicles for sale? It’s not quite as straightforward as walking into your local dealership and seeing which cars are available.

First, you need to know what you want. It’s much easier to shop for a used car if you have a make or model in mind. When thinking about which car to buy next, you should consider things like practicality, looks, comfort, fuel type, number of seats, price and mileage. Is there a particular mileage you’re happy to go up to, or perhaps you want a five-seater and not a four-seater? You might even want to see what car insurance group vehicles fall into so you can get an idea of annual running costs. Knowing these things in advance could narrow down your search.

Now, where should you look? If you have access to a computer and are confident using it, online would be the best place to start. You can use sites such as eBay and Auto Trader to find private listings locally. Alternatively, if you have a social media account, Facebook is a great place to look for cars. You could join some motoring Facebook groups where members regularly advertise their cars for sale, or you could use Facebook Marketplace to find listings from other Facebook users.

If you don’t have access to the internet or a computer, you can check the listings in your local newspaper.

How to buy a car privately

Once you’ve completed your search and figured out which car you want, it’s time to go and view the vehicle. This gives you a chance to ask the current owner any questions, look at the service book and check over the vehicle yourself. These are all important parts of the buying process.

If you wish to test drive the car, you must arrange temporary insurance before doing so. When you buy a car from a dealership, they’re insured for any damage that may be incurred during a test drive, however a private owner won’t be. You shouldn’t test drive any car that you don’t own without first consulting your car insurance provider or taking out temporary cover.

What to look for when buying a car 

When you go and view, you should ask the current owner for the V5C logbook to ensure that the car is currently registered to their address and is in their name. You should also ask for any paperwork associated with the vehicle, including the most recent MOT certificate. This should tell you the mileage at the time of its last MOT and you should clarify that this matches the figure on the dashboard of the car.

It’s important to check the car thoroughly, looking for any signs that it’s been in an accident, such as scrapes and scratches or even signs of repair work. Tyres are another important thing to check. They should be in good condition and wearing evenly. If a tyre is more worn on one side, the vehicle’s balancing may be out. You should also check the tread depth to ensure that this is legal and that new tyres aren’t needed imminently.

When is the best time to buy a new car?

If you’re willing to wait to purchase your new vehicle, you may be able to get a better deal. March and September are the most popular times to buy a brand new car. When people buy a brand new car during these times, they will often be thinking about selling their old one. This may put you in a stronger position when it comes to negotiating a price. It also means there may be more options available, so you can be a bit more choosey.

December and January can also be good months to buy a car if you’re looking to get a better price. Sellers may be looking for a quick sale in the run up to Christmas or at the start of the New Year, so you might be able to knock some extra off.


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What do I need to buy a car?

Now that you know how to look for a car and what to check when you’re viewing it, what is needed from you to purchase a vehicle?

If you’re purchasing privately, there won’t be any finance options available. This means the seller will be looking for the total sum up front, either in cash or via bank transfer, so you should make sure that you can afford to pay this way.

Before you pick the car up and drive it away, you must be insured on the vehicle and it must be taxed. You should organise this in advance.

These are the things you should do before you pick the car up. Once you’ve bought it and got it home, you will need to register the vehicle in your name. You can find out how to do this on the government website. The easiest way is to ask the seller to register the vehicle in your name online and then give you a filled in ‘New Keeper’ slip from the V5C.

Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to start shopping for your used car.

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