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Your guide to safely buying a used car in Northern Ireland

By Paul Connolly

There’s little to beat the clean, crisp smell of a new car – except, perhaps, bagging a bargain on a used one.

Whatever your price point, there are deals galore to be had in the pre-owned (or second hand) market.

True, used cars might not have the latest technology, driver assists and modern design as shiny new ones

But you can of course make considerable savings. And if a pre-owned car has been looked after well by its previous owner or owners, then it might not seem that old at all.

But the second hand market can be difficult to understand, and if you’re not careful, you could end up purchasing a dud.

Here’s our advice on keeping safe.

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1. How to navigate the used car market:

There are of course different ways to buy a used car but the safest bet is to purchase one from a reputable outlet.

A good rule of thumb is if you’re not completely certain about what you’re doing, stay mainstream.

In the trade, used cars are usually priced 'nearly new' or 'used'. Nearly new cars are up to one year old, with many looking virtually brand new.

Older used cars are often segmented into two categories - one to three years old, and over three.

Nearly new and used cars often have very low mileages and have thousands of pounds off the new list price, so are often outstanding value.

One of the best surest ways is the manufacturers' approved networks. All car makers have their own products, and again, whilst often not the cheapest, they have the decided advantage of the sheer scale of their operations and the detailed knowledge their mechanics have of their own vehicles.

Examples include: Network Q (Vauxhall), Ford Approved/Ford Direct, Mazda Approved, Audi Approved, BMW Approved Used Cars, and many, many more.

You can rest assured with approved dealers – as you can with mainstream garages – that the car’s service history and mileage is genuine.

You’ll also have peace of mind that their after-sales processes, mechanical breakdown guarantees, hire-purchase facilities, insurance, etc. are all above board.

Independent garages usually have models that span wider ages, but also they will have a wider choice of models from a range of manufacturers. You’ll often find them less expensive an option, too.

Here, you’ll find bargains including savings on the purchase price, and some keenly priced insurance deals as well. Many garages in Northern Ireland will also provide added value through servicing and repair deals.

However, sometimes the best bargains are buying direct from the car’s owners. Sometimes, however, this can be the riskiest option, so mind how you go.

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2. Before buying a used car

It’s critically important to test drive your target car on the actual road. How does it feel? Are the brakes effective and reassuring? Are there rattles, smells or leaks? Do some online reasearch.

Faults will soon be revealed with a test drive – and don’t be afraid to insist on more than just a trip around the block.

Check the documentation (log book, etc. see below) and if appropriate, check it has a current MOT certificate. If buying from a proper dealer, check if he or she will stand over any issues and for how long.

Watch out for a proper service history and check the mileage. A range of companies including HPI will check the car’s background, sometimes for free, for issues like mileage, insurance history and more.

When you buy from a reputable dealer, the car's financial history will have been checked to show there are no outstanding hire purchase agreements on it and that it is neither an insurance total loss nor been stolen. It’s good practice to ask for proof of all checks.

Make sure to check all documentation before entering into any finance agreement or warranty regarding a used car.

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3. Keep safe: Top tips for buying a used car privately

You should follow all the basics above. In addition, the DVLA strongly recommends that anyone considering purchasing a used car privately should take following practical steps to limit the chances of being sold a stolen vehicle:

  • Logbook check: Always have sight of the registration document V5 prior to purchase. And make sure you get the correct paper work when you take possession
  • Check the number: Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) - sometimes called the chassis number - corresponds with the number on the registration document. This number can usually be found on a metal plate under the bonnet or is visible at the bottom of the windscreen on newer vehicles.
  • Take a knowledgeable friend: If you have limited knowledge of vehicles, take an experienced person with you.
  • Be careful with mobile numbers: Be very wary of handing over cash to someone who has been contacted through a mobile number.
  • Always pay for that background check: As a final step before committing to a purchase, use the likes of HPI or Experian to check the vehicle’s history. As well as finding out if it’s stolen, a chif the vehicle has been seriously damaged, notified as stolen or is subject to outstanding finance. It should cost around £15 but it’s money well spent!
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Factfile

The UK’s Fastest-Selling Used Cars in 2016*

Automotive data experts CAP HPI have revealed the fastest selling used cars based on the latest market sales data.

Philip Nothard, company consumer and retail specialist, said: “Looking at the data from the number of used cars advertised in the UK we are able to identify the best-selling makes and models and how quickly they are being snapped up.

“The key positive for the used market to take from this is that there is strong appetite for used vehicles, particularly convertibles, executives, lower medium cars, MPVs, Superminis and SUVs, with an average selling period of just two days.”

  • City Car - Fiat 500 Hatchback   
  • Convertible - BMW 3 Series Convertible   
  • Coupe Cabriolet - 207 Coupe Cabriolet   
  • Electric - Vauxhall Ampera   
  • Executive - Audi A5 Coupe/Diesel Coupe   
  • Large Executive - Jaguar XJ Diesel   
  • Lower Medium - Mitsubishi Carisma   
  • Luxury Executive - Bentley Continental GT   
  • MPV - Mercedes Viano Diesel   
  • Sports - Audi TT   
  • Supercar - Lamborghini Murcielago Coupe   
  • Supermini - Ford Fiesta   
  • SUVS - VW Tiguan (08-11)   
  • Upper Medium - BMW 3 Series Coupe

* Based on data from automotive data experts CAP HPI

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