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Why December is a good time to buy a used car

Written by: James Fairclough
If you are considering buying a used car, here are AA Cars' chief executive James Fairclough's top tips for bagging a December bargain.

One of the most important aspects of shopping around for a used car is knowing when to buy.

There are some big benefits associated with buying a second hand car during the Christmas period, which in turn, can make a sizeable difference to the price you pay.

December, in general, tends to be a quiet month for the used car market as most people have other things on their mind, such as spending money on Christmas presents and festivities.

But what many people are unaware of is that by the time January arrives, they could have missed out on the chance to bag a great deal.

In late December, dealers are keen to clear out used car stock to make space for new vehicles in the new year. Also, many dealers are under pressure to make sales as the car industry’s sales figures are calculated according to the calendar year, rather than the tax year.

As the year draws to a close, dealers have annual targets to meet and bonuses to compete for, meaning they can be more willing negotiate. In turn, this can provide a great opportunity for buyers to take advantage of potential discounts, finance packages and additional freebies.

Perhaps the most noteworthy day for bagging a discount in December is Boxing Day, as many car dealerships hold sales events where buyers can snap up a used car for less.

The trick is to buy when other people aren’t looking for the same thing, which means December can be a fantastic time to change your wheels. 

Things to consider when buying a used car

Each year in Britain, used car sales outnumber new car purchases by a significant amount. For every new car sold, approximately 3.5 used ones change hands. Why? Because many people want to avoid taking the financial hit of depreciation associated with buying a new car.

The minute a new car drives out of the showroom, it immediately loses anything up to 30% of its value, so more and more people are inclined to buy a used model.

There’s no doubt that there are more risks associated with buying a used car, but if you’re a savvy buyer, have done your research and asked the right questions, you will minimise these risks significantly.

The main way of shielding yourself from these dangers is to buy a used car through a reputable dealer rather than a private seller.

Buying privately increases your chances of being exposed to rogue sellers, as you could end up purchasing a stolen vehicle or a cloned vehicle.

Also, by buying through a private seller the entire burden is on you if something goes wrong – if in the eventuality you aren’t protected by a warranty, the costs associated with any faults will be your responsibility.

By purchasing a used car through a reputable dealer that has signed up to a quality standard, it will give you peace of mind and allow you to make a purchase with absolute confidence.

You will know that the vehicle has been inspected and is backed with a 10-point ‘Dealer Promise’, which ensures you have more consumer rights. In the unlikely event of something going wrong, you are protected if the car runs into trouble further down the line.

Also, reputable dealers carry out a vehicle data check. This is important as it confirms that the mileage and number of previous owners are accurate and it identifies if a car has been stolen or if there is any outstanding finance associated with the vehicle.

How to negotiate on price to save the most money 

  • Research is vital. Do your homework, research prices online and check for rival dealers in your area to see what deals they are offering. Knowledge is often the best bargaining tool.
  • Check how long the vehicle that you’re interested in has been advertised for. The longer it has been on the market, the more likely dealers will be willing to offer a good discount.
  • If you’re trading in a car, make sure you know its value as this will put you in a better bargaining position. You can do this using free online valuation tools.
  • Always be friendly and polite, but don’t give away more information than you need to – like for example the top price or budget you are willing to pay.
  • If you are a cash buyer, keep this to yourself during the negotiations on the car. Dealers make larger profits on finance deals, so haggle on the car price first and then only once you have settled on a price you are happy with, let them know that you have decided to pay with cash.
  • Don’t automatically accept the first price offered to you. You can always walk away and go back a different day. If you don’t close a deal on the first day, leave your contact details and you may be pleasantly surprised with the extra discounts and offers the same dealer may call you with a few days later.

James Fairclough is chief executive of AA Cars

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