13 November 2015

Time to replace your car?

Cars are brilliant most of the time, providing a means of getting to university, work, mates and relatives’ houses, gigs and the like, much more comfortably than using public transport. Holding the keys to their very own cars gives younger people a real buzz, freedom on the open road suddenly opened up to them, followed by years of various happy memories, many of them partly possible because of their cars. Some people even give their cars a name. My Renault’s called Hubert, but I know most cars are given female names.

time to replace a car


The time eventually comes, though, when a car can end up costing more to run and maintain than is sensible, perhaps because it has become unreliable or because its fuel economy is low enough to make Arnie weep. Contemplating a ‘new’ (to the person) car can be pretty bewildering, with so many different ways to source and finance one, so this week The Root is all about where to find a replacement car.

Online classifieds, independent in nature, with searchable databases of new, nearly new and used cars advertised by both trade (businesses) and private sellers. Examples include household names like AutoTrader, eBay, Exchange and Mart and Gumtree, magazines’ websites such as Parkers and Auto Express, and also forums such as PistonHeads. Be wary of private sellers (more on them later) who hide behind an email address, reluctant to provide their phone number, and remember that cars matching a person’s criteria may be located hundreds of miles away unless the search postcode is narrowed.

Online classifieds


Manufacturers’ dealerships/showrooms & websites where a selection of new, nearly new (often called ‘ex-demo’) and used cars will be available to browse and test drive, mainly from the brand whose dealership it is e.g. a Vauxhall dealer will mainly sell Vauxhall cars. Customers are protected by strong consumer rights and presented with a range of payment options. Cars will have received thorough inspections before going on sale, the opportunity to have a face-to-face chat with the dealer can sometimes result in discounts being negotiated, and dealerships typically run promotions at certain times during the year, such as when new registrations come out in March and September, or toward month ends when they need to hit targets. Nearly all vehicles are covered by either the manufacturer’s original warranty, a slightly more limited extended/used car warranty (still from the manufacturer), or a third party one. Another advantage of finding a car at a main dealer is that they will almost certainly let the buyer part exchange their old car against the price of the replacement.

Main dealer showroom


Car supermarkets such as The Car People, MotorPoint or Arnold Clark, stocking a huge range of nearly new and used cars. Again, there’s the advantage of being able to touch, smell, inspect and drive cars of interest, choose the most suitable payment option and feel reassured by good consumer protection. Car supermarkets tend not to stock many really old cars, so manufacturers’ original warranties may still be offered in some cases, especially with Kia and Hyundai cars, which have the longest warranties. Otherwise, car supermarkets typically arrange a third party warranty protecting the customer if something breaks, but these can be quite limited, so check the small print. Part exchange is again typically offered.

 car supermarkets


Smaller, independent car dealers, who can operate out of anywhere ranging from glamorous showrooms, such as Joe Macari, the London-based supercar dealer who enjoys celebrity status, to their own homes, depending on the size of the business. I bought my Renault from an internet-based car dealer operating from his (ok, quite large) house. I was still able to test drive it but it felt a little awkward visiting his home. Still, a third party warranty was offered and I did have some consumer come-back if the car turned out to be a lemon. Most small dealers still offer part exchange but they may not always pay as much as a main dealer might.

Mates, relatives, neighbours or roadside advertisers who happen to be selling a car privately, a potentially good price having to be weighed up against very little official ‘come back’ if anything goes wrong. When considering buying a car privately, it can be a good idea to get someone like the AA or RAC to inspect it thoroughly for a fee of around £300, ensuring it is in good mechanical order, with no signs of neglect, roadworthy tyres, and so on. Insurance is also slightly trickier to arrange when buying a car from a private seller, who won’t be able to offer finance, leaving a loan, cheque, cash or credit card balance transfer as the only payment options available. Buying a car privately means that part exchange isn’t an option.

generic car


Auctions where cars can often be snapped up relatively cheaply but may be in need of repair, with shady service histories. If a test drive isn’t offered, it’s wise to try and at least visually inspect a car first before it goes under the hammer and to stick to the budget, not getting carried away and then regretting it. Before going to an auction, research is vital, looking at a make and model’s typical faults and historic values. A high proportion of auctioned vehicles previously come from fleets or main dealers, and it may be surprising to learn that many small used car dealers buy their cars at auction, so it’s not all bad. Part exchange isn’t an option with auctions, either.

car auctions 


Car Finders have sprung up online in recent years, operating like the Kirstie and Phil of the car world, scouring adverts and using their UK-wide contacts to find cars their clients are after, in exchange for a modest fee. The benefit is that they are often skilled at negotiating, have boffin-like car knowledge, a little black book bulging with connections, access to insider information, and can usually arrange part exchange and delivery to the doorstep.

Brokers are also popular on the internet these days, promising savings potentially running into the thousands, against nearly new or ‘preregistered’ new cars. Personal contact is lacking, there’s usually no room for extra negotiation, any test drive would involve an added trip to a dealership, and in many cases, the buyer ends up as the second registered owner, due to the way brokers pre-register cars, which can affect its resale value. Part exchange not being a service brokers typically provide, those obtaining replacement cars through this channel will have to sell their old vehicles privately.

car keys


The time of year can affect the pricing of cars, 4x4s typically becoming more expensive as autumn and winter approach, while the value of convertibles usually increases heading towards the spring and summer months, so these angles are worth bearing in mind, too, along with factors like the recent VW emissions scandal affecting some makes’ diesel values.

In the near future, our second car buying instalment will look at how to pay for the new, nearly new or used car a person has set their heart on, including personal leasing (AKA ‘contract hire’), which is becoming more popular these days. In the meantime, if you can think of any additional channels not covered in this article, or have any questions or maybe even your own tips, we’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.