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Where is the best place to buy a used car?

Used-car buyers have plenty of choice for places to buy their next used car, and each has its pros and cons. We’ll help you decide where you’ll find your next car.

You have several vendor options when looking for a used car. Finding one you can trust is essential, so take your time to research and find the option that works for you.
In addition to being trustworthy, it’s worth shopping around to find a place that offers the best deals and services, lowest prices and highest quality second-hand cars. To help make the process of choosing the best place to buy used cars easier, we’ve listed the different places you can search for second-hand cars and the pros and cons of each option.

Places to buy a used car:

Franchises: dealerships that sell and specialise in a single manufacturer’s vehicles, and sell both used and new cars
Independent dealers: small or large size dealerships that sell used cars and keep a large variety of vehicles • Car supermarkets: dealerships that keep hundreds of used, mainstream cars • Private sellers: people that are selling their old cars • Auction houses: places that sell used vehicles at a low price (plus an auction fee) through bidding

Exploring the different car-buying options

Franchise dealer

• You’re dealing with an expert • You can get approved used cars • Finance and warranty available Disadvantages • Likely to be most expensive • Tend to focus on newer cars • Less choices if a one-brand dealership If you’re looking for a relatively young used car, a franchised dealer may be your best bet. With a franchise, you can get the peace of mind of dealing with people who are experts in the car you’re thinking of buying, and they tend to have the best-quality cars. You may also be able to buy the car through the manufacturer-backed approved used scheme, which provides cars that have been through a series of pre-sales checks such as history check. Approved used cars almost always provide some sort of warranty or breakdown cover. Approved used or not, a franchised dealer has an advantage in that it is usually a one-stop-shop. They will almost certainly be able to provide you with options for finance and warranty, and most will be happy to part-exchange your existing car as well. However, this level of service and back-up doesn’t always come cheap. Buying from a franchised dealer can be one of the most expensive ways to buy a used car. But you may well decide that the top-notch service makes it money well spent. At Free Trader UK, we show a Price Indicator for every vehicle advertised to indicate if the deal is priced at market or not. Our Price Indicator uses real-time data based on the live retail market and considers make, model, year, mileage, fuel type and optional extras. Factors like the car's colour, the popularity of a car in a specific region, special modifications and so on are not considered, so always check a car’s specs in the ad, as there may be special or unique features behind that higher price tag.

Independent dealer

• Usually have lower prices than franchise dealer • No bias to one manufacturer • May offer warranty and finance Disadvantages • Sites can vary in quality • Can be difficult to negotiate price What we consider an ‘independent’ dealer covers a huge range of places. At the top end, your independent dealerships may include plush surroundings, availability of competitive finance and warranty packages, and the likelihood they’ll take your old car in part-exchange. You may even find specialists in the particular make or model you’re interested in, possibly with more knowledge than a franchised dealer. However, dealing with a team of professionals means it can be difficult to haggle prices. You can also find sites that specialise in nearly new cars, which are newer than the sort of stock you typically find at a franchise dealer, and they have no bias towards a particular maker. Wherever you go, the biggest advantage is that independents generally charge lower prices than franchised dealers. You also get more legal protection and additional services than you would with a private seller or auction houses. However, you may not be able to find someone with intimate knowledge of the car you’re buying, as you would at a franchise dealer and the prices will be higher when compared to private sellers or auction houses. Related: How to buy a car at an independent dealership

Car Supermarket

• Low prices • Lots of cars Disadvantages • Mainly mainstream models • You may need to pay an admin fee on top of the car’s advertised price Supermarkets are sometimes known for their ‘pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’ mentality, and cheap prices make them attractive. Such sites tend to have a wide choice of cars (with a fast turnover of stock), and you may be able to buy a car and drive it away on the same day. Most sites also offer finance, so they can be a one-stop-shop. However, supermarkets tend to concentrate on mainstream models, so if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, you may struggle. Plus, there’s a chance they’ll offer low part-exchange prices and warranties, and it’s quite common for them to charge an ‘admin fee’ on top of the price of the car. However, if you’re getting a great price on the car you’re buying, that may be less of an issue.

Private sellers

• Likely to be cheap • Can haggle more • Can buy quickly Disadvantages • Less legal back-up for buyer • Can find dodgy dealers masquerading as private sellers • Tend to be older cars Private sales can be a happy hunting ground for certain types of car. As the buyer doesn’t have to worry about keeping a business afloat with a big profit, prices can be very attractive and there can be more room to haggle as they often want to get rid of the old car quickly to make space for a new one. It can be trickier to arrange to buy from a private seller, as you’d need to find a convenient time to view and test the car. Private sellers don’t always perform the same thorough checks as franchises do, and you may have less legal back-up than if you bought it from a trader. As such, it’s important to verify the information provided by the seller, such as the car’s mileage and history, and make careful checks before you buy. Here’s a list of information you should double-check before buying a car. Last, but not least, private sellers tend to be selling older cars, so if you’re looking for something newer, you may be better off looking at a trader. Related: How do I pay a private seller when buying a used car


• Cheap prices • Huge range Disadvantages • No test drives • Can’t get in cars, so hard to know what you’re buying • Admin fees added to the price you pay • Not for the uninitiated Auctions can be a great place to pick up bargains, but they’re usually the hunting ground of the trade, rather than private buyers. For the same reason, they’re not a great place for the inexperienced or uninitiated. It’s all too easy to get swept away by the speed and passion of the place and end up with a poor deal. Anyone considering buying at an auction would do well by making a couple of non-buying visits, just to get a feel of the place. It’s not always easy to know exactly what you’re buying in advance as you won’t be able to test drive any of the cars that you’re interested in, and you have only the most limited chance to inspect any car. You also have little legal back-up if there are problems with the car, and there will almost certainly be an admin fee to pay on top of the price of the car. Many cars that come to these auctions can be category-N cars. They might also have high mileage or be quite old or in bad condition which make them unsuitable for an approved-used car scheme. If you can take along someone from the trade to help, it’s worth considering, but otherwise, it’s best left to the pros.

Buying a used car on Free Trader UK

With so many choices available, looking for your next car can be exhausting. At Free Trader UK, we aim at making your car buying journey as easy as possible by providing you used car offers from different places and sellers on a single platform.
All cars on Free Trader UK come with a price indicator, a free five-point background check and reviews of the seller from our customers to help you make the best choice. We also offer a Vehicle Check for a more in-depth background check to ensure you have total peace of mind. Buying a second-hand car can be a lengthy process at times. To make the process easier, we’ve prepared a used car checklist for you, to guide you through the car-buying journey. If you’ve got more questions, we’ve got plenty of tips and advice on buying a used car. Ready with your checklist? Check out our extensive range of used cars to find the perfect match for yourself.

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