How to Save Big on Your Next Car

In the market for a car? Maybe this is your first vehicle, or perhaps you're looking to upgrade from your previous model. You might just be bored with what you already have, or trying to adapt to a change in your lifestyle. Whatever your reasons, buying a used car is nearly always the cheaper option. In this buying guide, we'll show you how to amplify those savings when diving into the used car market.

1. Find the right seller

When you’re in the market for a used car, there are usually two main options available: buying from a dealer or buying from a private seller.

A dealership will have a wide selection of different models available, so you can compare vehicles and find the one that best suits your needs. These registered vendors can also provide you with additional extras that will save you money in the long term, such as a warranty or service package. In addition to this, financing is usually available from dealers, so you can buy a car without having to pay the full price upfront. Some buyers also feel more secure when buying from a dealership.

However, if you know the exact type of car you want, it can often be cheaper to get it from an individual seller. It tends to be easier to haggle and to find a price that suits both of you, without any middlemen taking a cut. When you’re buying a car privately from someone who is just trying to get a quick sale, the whole process can be a lot simpler and more straightforward.

2. Try an older model

If you’re already looking for a used car, one of the best ways to get a better price is to check out the older versions of the model that you’re interested in. A lot of manufacturers will update their most popular cars annually, tweaking their designs and adding a few extra bells and whistles to keep new buyers interested. But often, there will be no major changes for several years. So, if you look for a model from a few years ago, you can get most of the benefits of the latest version – but at a much cheaper price point.

Plus, if you’re only interested in the fundamental aspects of a particular car, you could even go back to a previous generation. Those models will tend to be much cheaper, although you might end up paying a bit extra in the long term, as the technology from older cars can be less reliable and not as fuel-efficient. Take a look at our expert guide on car depreciation for more information.

3. Cast your net wide

There’s always a huge amount of choice in the car market. When you’re looking at used vehicles, including the majority of cars released over the past decade or more, the task of picking the right one for you can be overwhelming. For this reason, many buyers will try to play it safe and go for one of the most popular cars. There’s a kind of comfort and reassurance in the big names and the top sellers. If so many people are buying them, they must be pretty good, right?

It’s true that the biggest-selling cars are usually popular for good reason, but if you’re trying to save as much money as possible, there’s just as much quality available among some of the lesser-known models. Sometimes, a major manufacturer will have a cheaper alternative to its top car in a particular category, offering you most of the same benefits. It’s also always worth checking out some of the smaller brands, as you’ll often find that buyers are paying for a premium badge almost as much as they’re paying for the car itself.

4. Strip back to the essentials

It’s easy to be deceived by the cost of cars. A model will be advertised by a dealer at a particular price point, but you might choose to upgrade it with all kinds of additional extras, which can end up pushing the cost of the car past a level that you’re comfortable with. Alloy wheels, extra infotainment options, and faster engines are all tempting things to have in the short term, but they don’t come cheap. You might soon realise that you didn’t need or want them as much as you first thought.

If you want to pay less for your car, try to stick to the most basic trim possible. When you’re comparing different options, make sure you’re always considering the entry-level version of a model. Sometimes you might be drawn towards important features of a car, only to find that they’re not available unless you upgrade to a higher trim. It’s a good idea to create a used car checklist, including all of the essential things that you’re looking for, and stick to it.

5. Go electric

The electric car may have once seemed like a pipe dream or been unfairly maligned as an inferior alternative to petrol or diesel vehicles, but the vast majority of cars are now released with at least one reliable hybrid or all-electric engine option. Quality electric power has been well within the price range of the average buyer for over a decade, and there are even some affordable cars that have no petrol or diesel engine options at all.

The benefits of electric vehicles extend far beyond their impact on your wallet, as they’re an eco-friendly option that will help to reduce the carbon footprint of your driving. But the potential savings they offer are also well worth considering. If you’re considering going electric, check out our guide to the top ten best cheap electric cars. With a hybrid engine, you’ll get a lot more mileage before you have to refuel, which can make a huge difference in the long term. This can be particularly noticeable if you’re on a tighter budget and you’re comparing an electric vehicle to an older petrol-powered car that might not offer the best fuel efficiency.

Even if you’re buying a used car on a budget, there should be enough older electric models now available that can offer the engaging driving experience that earlier variants sometimes lacked. The limited range of electric cars is also becoming less of a problem as the years go by. Plus, for those buyers who only tend to use their cars for short commutes, this was likely never an issue to begin with. Ask your dealer to recommend a used hybrid car and see how much you can save.

Hopefully this guide has shown you how to find the right used car for you, and how to pay as little as possible. Keep doing your research before you buy, and stay focused on what exactly you want or need from your next vehicle. We’re sure you’ll find that buying used is just as satisfying as buying new – but so much cheaper!

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