Your Ultimate Guide to Buying a Second Hand Car: Top 5 Reliable Picks in the UK


Purchasing a second-hand car offers significant cost savings when compared to buying a brand-new vehicle. In the UK there is a thriving market for pre-owned cars meaning there are numerous options to choose from.

Whether you’re in search of an affordable daily driver or your dream vintage vehicle, the market provides a wide array of options. However, navigating the market can be challenging, and due to uncertain histories and sales tactics. Making an informed choice is crucial so this comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential steps for buying the exact second-hand car to fit your needs. Within this article, we will discuss tips and checklists designed to reduce the likelihood of any unpleasant surprises. We will even make some suggestions for some cars to keep an eye out for on the market!

Top Tips When Preparing To Purchase

Before diving into the used car market, it’s vital to establish your budget. Consider not only the purchase price but also ongoing expenses like insurance, road tax, fuel, and maintenance. You have the option to compare the running costs of various models, including those you’re considering for purchase, on various websites, such as WhoCanFixMyCar and Auto Costs.

It might also be a good idea to narrow down your choices by researching different car models and comparing these to what best fits your needs including size, features, and fuel efficiency. For example, there is no point in buying a two-seater vehicle if you have or are thinking of starting a family. According to a 2018 survey conducted by Statista, it was found that 60% of British drivers considered fuel efficiency as the primary factor influencing their choice of a new car.  Safety and design were also factors in their decision-making process. Factors to consider when buying a car might include the number of seats, budget and cost of running the vehicle, fuel type, vehicle design, size of the boot, car height and/or legroom space desired based on the owner as well as regular passengers, length of day-to-day journeys and more. You then factor these into essential requirements and negotiable requirements and then you can factor out vehicles from your search accordingly.

So you have found a car you are interested in? Well, then there are some additional steps that you need to factor in before you shake the salesman’s hand and take the keys to your car.

Make sure you obtain a vehicle history report of any car you might be interested in. This report can reveal a lot of crucial information, such as whether the car has been in any accidents or has a history of mechanical problems. Here are 5 suggestions of some websites you can use for used car checks and inspections:

Additionally, you should always inspect the car in person before committing to a purchase. This is the perfect time to look for signs of rust and hidden damage. If you are not confident in your ability to check for said issues you can consider hiring a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. Whilst doing this it is also important for you to take the car for a test drive. This is how you can make decisions. Firstly if you like driving the car but also the engine performance, braking, steering, and overall comfort.

Furthermore, here is a list of questions that you might want to ask the seller:

  • How many previous owners the car has had?
  • When is the service and MOT due?
  • Is there any remaining warranty?
  • Does it have any modifications?
  • Is the vehicle handbook present?

Here are some suggestions for some reliable used cars to keep an eye out for in the UK:

  1. Ford Fiesta - It’s known for its reliability, affordability, and efficient fuel economy. Whether you’re looking for a practical daily driver or a sportier version, the Fiesta offers a wide range of options.
  2. Ford Focus - A brilliant all-rounder that’s well-priced, practical, reliable and affordable to run.
  3. Honda Civic - It’s a practical choice for families and commuters, offering a spacious interior and a comfortable ride.
  4. Volkswagen Golf - The Volkswagen Golf is a classic choice for those seeking a balance of performance, comfort, and style.
  5. Nissan Qashqai - If you’re in the market for an SUV, the Nissan Qashqai is a strong contender. It’s well-regarded for its spacious interior, good handling, and a range of available features. This crossover SUV is a popular choice for families and adventurers alike.
  6. Toyota Yaris - Toyota’s commitment to reliability is well-known, and the Yaris is no exception. This compact car boasts impressive fuel efficiency, making it an ideal choice for city driving. The Yaris also comes with a reputation for minimal maintenance requirements.

Top Tips for Closing The Deal

Once you’ve found a used car you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to negotiate the price. Research the fair market value of the vehicle to ensure you’re getting a reasonable deal. Take this research with you and haggle for the best price you can. Haggling can be a daunting task but there is nothing to be afraid of, here are some of our tips: stick to your research and have confidence in it, be friendly but firm, do not feel pressure to fill the silence, and remember flaws mean discounts (which is why its ideal to inspect the car for any scratches and dents).

Once you have an agreed-upon price then take one final review of all the paperwork (service history, MOT certificates & seller ID) and then check on the warranty of the car. If the used car you’re purchasing is no longer covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, you might want to explore extended warranty options for added peace of mind.

So you are happy with the car, its condition, the price, and all the paperwork, it’s now time to swap payment for the car, the keys, the manuals, and all the service records. Additionally, make sure to follow the DVLA’s guidelines for transferring ownership of the vehicle. This includes notifying them of the change in ownership and receiving a new V5C logbook in your name.

Buying a second-hand car in the UK can be a smart investment, provided you do your homework and follow the proper steps. By setting a budget, researching models, and inspecting and test-driving cars, you can find a reliable vehicle that suits your needs. Additionally, considering popular and dependable models like the Ford Fiesta and the Toyota Yaris can be an excellent starting point for your search. Remember to negotiate wisely, review the paperwork thoroughly, and complete the necessary transfer of ownership steps to ensure a smooth and successful purchase. With these guidelines in hand, you’re well on your way to hitting the road in your new-to-you vehicle.