Hints & Tips: Buying Used Cars

Buying a car is a big investment, and the first stage of finding the right car is to identify your needs. Car companies and car sellers want us to spend our money on their cars, which can sometimes lead us to buy features and specifications we neither want nor need in the long term. So how can you be sure you're making the right decision? For those looking for a great deal, buying a used car is a good way to go, but there are some things to always keep in mind when considering buying used. Follow our top tips in this guide and find out everything you need to know about buying a preowned car.

What to think about before buying a used car

Is it a good idea to buy a preowned car?

Buying a preowned car is a great idea if you want to prioritise value for money and find a great car at the best possible price. Budget and reliability are often the major deciding factors while contemplating the pros and cons of buying preowned cars versus new cars. If you’re buying a used or nearly new car, you’ll probably be able to afford higher-tier trims than if you looked at new models, ensuring a more comfortable driving experience in the long run. This is one of the many advantages of buying used. It may be especially important to you if you’re going to gather miles quickly, as a higher-end model could ensure better reliability. But it does take some amount of additional effort, time, and research to get your hands on a car that fits the bill. A look around our advice articles and the Gumtree used cars listing pages can be a good starting point.

What is the best mileage for buying a used car?

For most people, a mileage of 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year is the best bracket to look in. That means, for example, if you’re purchasing a 5-year-old car, 50,000 to 60,000 miles is considered a good mileage to be looking at.

If you see that the mileage of a car is significantly higher, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker. It may have been used as a company car, in which case clocking 30,000 miles a year is normal. If you notice that a car has unusually low mileage, it can be tempting to snap it up straightaway, but it’s worth looking into a little further – it could be that the car’s odometer hasn’t been working normally, or the car may have been off the road or unused for some time. If you notice red flags with wear and tear issues, as well as unkempt or highly worn interiors, think about getting the car checked by an inspector. No matter what the mileage of the car is, remember to give the service history a proper check and to test drive thoroughly to ensure that you’re getting a good deal.

What to consider when you’re buying a used car


Before you do anything else, you should consider how much you want to spend on purchasing and maintaining a car. Remember to factor in tax and insurance costs when thinking about what you can afford. Use the Car Price Index and find out what makes a good price for the particular make and model you’re looking for.


It’s worth thinking carefully about what size of car you need; bigger is not necessarily always better. While larger vehicles can carry more passengers and have more luggage space, they’re also heavier, guzzle more fuel and can cost more to run. Consider how often you’ll use extra space – will it be most of the time or once in a blue moon?

Type of fuel

Petrol and diesel are the most common types of fuel, so consider which you would prefer. Petrol cars have lighter engines, rev quicker and some people prefer how they sound. Diesel engines have higher torque, are good at overtaking on the motorway and towing trailers, and also manage shorter sections of low-speed driving well. Petrol and diesel versions of the same model often differ in their fuel efficiency, and there are currently restrictions on diesel cars being considered in parts of the UK, due to the harmful emissions linked to diesels. These restrictions may apply to older diesels in particular, so it’s especially important to keep in mind when buying used.

Engine size

What size engine you’ll need is another key consideration. Larger engines are generally more powerful but consume more fuel. If you’re mainly going to be zipping around the city, a smaller engine might be the way to go. Other alternatives include electric and hybrid engines, which are becoming increasingly popular thanks to their lower environmental impact and the savings they offer on fuel.


It’s always a good idea to check the safety credentials of the car you’re thinking about buying. Look up its Euro NCAP safety rating, and look into what safety features come as standard and which are optional extras. Things like ABS can increase the car’s safety and the driving experience. It’s worth taking the time to research where you’ll service the car. You may find you live far away from the service centre or that parts are hard to come by.

Do your homework

Our final key tip is to research the specific model you’re interested in, not just the make or model in general. You’ll find different features, specs, safety ratings, tech and even designs depending on the exact trim and year that the car was built.

Which is the best second hand car to buy?

With so many used cars in the market today, it can be hard to hone down the choices. Luckily we’ve made that easier for you:

🚗 Volkswagon Golf: The granddaddy of family hatchbacks, the VW Golf has been happily taking small families on school runs and picnics with equal ease since 1974. While it’s not the cheapest in the used car market, its long history can assure you of its reliability.

🚗 Honda CR-V: Roomy interiors and powerful engines make the CR-V a standout SUV. Plus, Honda has a wide dealer network, which makes it easy to get your car serviced in good time.

🚗 BMW 3 Series: Iconic, agile and budget friendly on the pre-owned market, the 3 Series is one of the best cars to choose in the second-hand market, simply on how good it feels to drive.

🚗 Ford Focus: Safety, reliability and comfort make the Ford Focus a go-to pick on the used car market. Plus, plenty of choice in engines means it’s easy to find one that fits your budget and lifestyle.

Take these considerations into account while searching and you’ll find your ideal used car in no time. Once you’ve decided what to buy, take a look at our complete checklist to buying a used car.

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