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When to Buy a Used Car

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 16 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
When To Buy A Used Car

A confident buyer should be able to get a great deal on a used car at any time, but it can be easier to pick up a bargain in certain months. The best time to buy is when dealers have sold a lot of new cars and so have plenty of trade-ins on their hands.

Until the late 1990s, new number plate registrations came but once a year in the UK and every August the motor industry rubbed its hands in glee as customers rushed to car showrooms the length and breadth of the country to collect new cars. A quarter of all new cars sold in Britain every year left the showrooms in August.

Since 1999, however, UK registration plates have changed twice a year, in March and September. These have now become the busiest times of the year in car showrooms, as people flock to buy new cars.

Drive Down Prices

Many of the customers buying new cars will trade in their old model as a part exchange and, as a result, a lot of dealers are left with a glut of used cars. This over supply will, naturally, drive down the prices of used cars. It makes sense, therefore, that the best time to buy a used car is either between mid-March and the start of May or between mid-September and the start of November.

Most major dealers will be keen to sell on as many of these part-exchange cars as soon as possible and rake in more profits, so there are some great deals to be had. But do not assume that a dealer will offer a fantastic price straight away just to clear his forecourt, because he won’t. The dealer will still want to make as big a profit as possible, so buyers still must be willing to haggle to get the best price.

There are other factors to take into account when thinking about the best time to buy a used car. For instance, those interested in buying a convertible may think these cars are more popular in the summer and so cheaper in the winter. This is true, but the difference in prices between summer and winter for open tops has dwindled, so buyers should neither pay over the odds when the sun is out nor expect too much of bargain when there is snow on the ground.

When the Sun Shines

There are definite advantages to buying a used car on a nice, sunny day, however. Plenty of sunshine makes it much easier for a buyer to give a used car a thorough inspection, whereas a dark winter’s day can hide away any dents and dings in a car’s bodywork and will generally make it far tougher for a buyer to inspect a car as carefully as he would like.

Of course, it is not always possible to wait for the British summer to make an appearance before buying a car, so if buying in winter try to pick a dry day that is not too overcast. If the chosen date turns out to be miserable, ask the seller to rearrange the viewing and only purchase when completely satisfied.

Another factor to consider is the state of the UK economy. A recession will hit car dealers quickly, because people will put off spending lots of money on luxury items like new cars when money is tight. If times are hard, dealers may be more willing to listen to offers and buyers can pick up great deals.

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