10 questions you should ask before buying a car

Harvey Jones

A new or used car will be one of the most expensive things you ever buy, so it pays to drive a hard bargain. Here are ten questions everybody should ask before parting with their money…

1. Can I risk buying diesel?

Diesel car sales have fallen sharply after politicians blamed them for pollution and slapped on extra taxes. 

They are fuel efficient for motorists who do long motorway journeys but petrol, electric and plug-in hybrids are usually better for motoring around towns. Diesel prices have also fallen so you may be disappointed by resale values.

 

2. Should I use cash?

If you have enough cash to cover buy a new or used car outright, then lucky you. That saves working through complicated finance packages, plus you avoid interest.

Don’t use all your spare cash but keep some aside for other emergences, including car repairs.Don’t use all your spare cash but keep some aside for other emergences, including car repairs.

 

3. What is PCP?

Personal contract plans (PCP) are hugely popular but many are still confused about how they work.

You put down an initial deposit then make monthly payments over two to four years. At the end, you either return the car back or make a final “balloon” payment to buy it outright.

 

4. How does HP work?

HP lets you spread the cost of your car over several years, typically three to five. 

You only own the car outright after you have made your final monthly payment, it can be repossessed if you fall behind.

 


5. How do PCP and HP differ?

PCP monthly payments are generally lower but you do not own the car unless you choose to make the balloon payment. 

There are no mileage limits with HP, but there are with PCP, and penalties for exceeding them.

 

6. Can I lease instead?

Many motorists never buy a car but lease instead, often switching cars regularly. 

This is sometimes called personal contract hire (PCH), where you make an initial deposit then monthly payments for between one and three years, before handing it back and leasing another. Again, beware annual mileage limitations.

 

7. Should I consider a personal loan?

Personal loans are cheap right now, and you can use one to you cover part or all of the cost of a new or used car. 

The advantage is that you know your monthly payments and final repayment cost from the outset, as well as when the loan will finally be repaid.

 

8. Can I afford to run it?

The initial cost isn’t the only expense to consider. Make sure you can also afford insurance, road tax, fuel and roadside recovery. 

If it's a stretch, buy a smaller, cheaper car.

 

9. Can I risk buying a used car privately?

If buying from a dealer, it must also adhere to the Consumer Rights Act, which states that products must be “of satisfactory quality”, “fit for purpose” and “as described”. 

If buying privately, it may be worth paying to have your car checked by the AA, RAC or HPI Check, which will alert you to illegal motors, stolen cars or unpaid finance. 

Vendors must also have the car’s registration certificate (V5C). If not, leave.

 

10. Can I barter with a dealer?

Absolutely. Don't be shy. They always have new motors coming in, and old ones they want to get rid of. 

If you’re not happy, politely walk away. They might call you back.