How to get the best deal when buying a car from a dealer

Buying from a dealer is still a mainstay option when purchasing a car — though it may seem like a daunting task.

There’s no reason to be afraid about stepping into a dealership – you shouldn’t have to feel intimidated or up against the wall. In fact, follow these tips and you’ll be able to walk away happy that you’ve got the very best deal possible.

Research the car

It may seem trivial, but the best thing you can do first of all in the buying process is to pick a car and research everything you can about it. Knowledge is power when it comes to buying from a dealer, and making sure you know everything about a certain model can make the difference when it comes to buying one.

Be choosy too; pick a colour, spec and engine and stick with that. It’ll put you in a far stronger position with a dealer if you know exactly which car you want, as well as all the information about it. Remember that dealers usually have a huge stock of used vehicles, and access to a nationwide selection of cars.


Chose the right dealer

This is an important decision to make. Franchised dealers get first access to the latest cars and technology, and are therefore potentially better equipped at answering any questions you may have. In terms of aftersales and repairs, they have the very best manufacturer support too. They’ll also have a good selection of used vehicles which will have been well maintained in the main dealer servicing department.

There is, of course, the option to buy from an independent dealer. Able to offer a more diverse range of vehicle, the likelihood with an independent dealer is that if they don’t quite have the car you want, then there will be a multitude of other options available there on-site, and for a slightly lower price than a main dealer.

Check them out online

Once you’ve picked the dealer you fancy, then thoroughly look through their reviews online. You’ll be able to easily see how well they treat their customers, and also how good they are at dealing with aftersales issues.

You also can’t beat old fashioned word-of-mouth; asking neighbours, friends and relatives about a potential dealership can be a great way to find out what they’re like, both to buy from and deal with after the initial purchase.


Pick your purchase time

Believe it or not, you can get a better deal depending on what time of the year you go to a dealership. Dealers are often pressed to reach quarterly targets, which is why if you head onto the forecourt at the end of March, June, September and December, there’s a good chance you’ll get a better deal. It’s a small little tip, but one which could see you saving thousands of pounds off a vehicle if successful.

Dealing with salespeople

Stepping into the dealership, it’s likely that you’ll be approached by a dealer. Remain pleasant, but don’t forget why you’re there – to buy a car. Many dealers will look to exploit information you let slip while chatting, so keep your information close. Stay pleasant, and remain relaxed – it’s easy to make a bad decision or be talked into a certain model you didn’t want when you’re stressed. Remember, buying a car is meant to be fun after all!

It’s worth remembering that, after all, dealers are there to make money – so don’t be surprised if they try and upsell you.


Test drive

Once you’ve seen a car you like, then it’s time to get behind the wheel. The likelihood is that the salesperson will accompany you in the car, but don’t let that stop you from pressing all of the buttons and getting a feel for the vehicle in general. Ensure that your test route features a range of different corners, roundabouts and road surfaces – dealers will likely take you on a tried-and-tested-route which showcases the best attributes of the car, so try and switch this up.

Remember, this is your only real opportunity to drive the car – so make it count. Don’t be afraid to quiz the dealer sat alongside you on the ins and outs of the vehicle too.

Check the stock

After you’ve driven the car, it’s worth checking to see if there are any nearly-new vehicles available at the dealership. Often featuring delivery miles, these can often be cheaper than a conventional used car, securing you a nearly-new car for a fraction of the price. It’s an incredibly easy way to get a great deal on a used car – though you may have to make a slight compromise in terms of colour and specification in order to get your hands on one.


Run a background check

Yes, it may sound like a tactic used by James Bond, but running a background check on a used car can be the difference between care-free motoring and a proper headache. Though many dealers will provide their own background check, it’s always worth doing your own. Should it flag up any issues, walk away – it could mean a whole heap of trouble is on the horizon.


You’ve picked the car, taken it out for a test drive and now you’re prepared to sign on the dotted line. But to reiterate, car dealerships are still businesses and are designed to make a profit, so you need to be careful here.

Dealers will likely try and certain options to make it more appealing, while also bumping up the price. Items such as paint protection are a popular upsell option, and despite costing a few hundred pounds externally of the dealership, can command far more when purchasing from it. Stay strong, and only agree to exactly what you need.

Cash or finance

There are still a variety of ways to pay for a used car, which is a benefit over buying privately. There’s Hire Purchase, which sees you paying a deposit and repaying the remaining balance of the car over monthly instalments. At the end of the payment term, you’ll own the car outright.

Then there’s Personal Contract Purchase, or PCP. Again, you’ll pay an initial deposit followed by monthly payments but at the end you’ll be offered a ‘balloon payment’ to pay off the remainder of the car’s value, or you return it to the dealer. This option usually features strict mileage caps, which you’ll be heavily penalised for exceeding.

Finally, there’s Personal Leasing. This is a good option if you’re planning on frequently changing your car, though you do have to usually stump up three months’ rental in advance, and there’s no option to buy the car at the end of the deal.

You can, of course, pay entirely by cash. Though be careful; whereas it used to be the case that cash buyers got the best deals, nowadays you’re sometimes better off getting finance in order to get the best deal – so do your homework here.



It’s an age-old process, but haggling remains just as crucial today as it always has. Even with used cars, there’s always going to be a certain amount of wiggle room. You shouldn’t ever have to pay the full price for a car, and dealers are prepared for this. Go in strong, and stick to your guns – it’s only the same as they’ll be doing.

Remember, if you don’t ask you don’t get, so don’t be afraid to ask for free additions and discounts on servicing plans. The worst they can say is no!


If you’re buying a used car, then a warranty can be a particularly useful thing to have. Again, this is an area where haggling and getting the best deal is key – dealers will have a little bit of wiggle room when it comes to warranties. However, remember that if you’re financing a car, any mechanical issues with it will involve the finance company rather than the dealer you bought it from.

Don’t be scared of walking away

Remember, there are thousands of used cars available on the market, and hundreds of dealerships too. There is always another car, so don’t be scared to walk away if things don’t feel right. Don’t be pressured into any deal either; the final decision is entirely yours, and if you don’t like the way things are heading, walk straight out of those doors!

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