How to save cash buying a second hand car online without taking a risk

In the first three months of the year more than two million second-hand cars were bought by motorists across Britain.

Figures from the SMMT show Ford Fiestas, Vauxhall Corsas and Ford Focuses were most popular, followed by VW Golfs, Vauxhall Astras and BMW 3s.

But would you buy a car without driving it first? Or even seeing it in person? It appears that growing numbers of us are – by putting our faith in online dealerships.

According to a new study by AA Cars , one motorist in nine (11%) is now choosing to buy a car online rather than heading in person to their local dealership.

What’s more, more people are now considering it, according to the AA’s research, depending on factors such as whether the vehicle has been examined by a pre-sale inspector from a trusted brand or if the dealer was associated with a trusted trade body.

So if you’re thinking about heading online to find your next car, what are the big things to consider to ensure you don’t drive off with an old banger?

Dealerships vs manufacturers

If you want to buy a car online, you can do so both through an online dealership or directly from some manufacturers.

For example, with Hyundai’s ‘click to buy’ service you can sort out a part-exchange, arrange car finance, configure your chosen motor to meet your requirements and then select a dealership – and time – that suits you for picking up your new car.

If you’re paying in cash, you can even request for the car to be delivered directly to your door.

Alternatively, you can head to an online dealership like , where you can choose from a wider selection of both used and new cars.

Again you can pay in full or arrange finance, and often select a date and time for the car to be delivered to you.

Do your research

Just because you are purchasing online rather than in person, it’s still important to kick the tyres and get a better idea of what you are buying.

Make sure you check exactly what sorts of inspections cars need to have gone through in order to be listed on the site you’re using, and go through the listing information – and pictures – of the car that’s caught your eye on the portal you’re using.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions either if you feel there’s something missing. You need to be completely comfortable with what you’re buying before you hand over a penny.

It may also be worth double checking the details in the listing against what information the DVLA holds on the vehicle, which you can do free online through its online vehicle information checker service .

Am I getting a good deal?

This research really needs to extend to price as well.

A big selling point of buying a car online is that you don’t have to haggle over the price the way you might with a physical dealership.

And while online car dealerships claim that they are able to offer big discounts, don’t just take their word for it.

Shop around to see how much similar vehicles are going for in physical dealerships, to ensure that the deal really is as good as the online dealership reckons.

Don’t forget the cooling off period

The consumer rights protections in place for shopping online apply to cars, just as they do laptops, DVDs or anything else you might pick up from Amazon .

One key protection is that all online purchases come with a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period. And that's 14 days from the delivery, not the order.

So if you change your mind, you are entitled to get your money back, though it’s important that you check the small print to establish if there are any any charges you’ll have to pay when returning the vehicle.

Similarly, there may be clauses regarding the mileage you’re allowed to have covered during this cooling off period.

After all, the dealer may be stuck with a motor that they could previously sell as new – with the premium that that brings – which they can now only market as being used.

Something’s gone wrong

You also have the protection of the Consumer Rights Act, which means you can ask for a full refund should something go wrong with the motor within the first 30 days of ownership.

If the car starts showing some form of issue within the first six months of ownership, then you can request that the seller either repairs it or provides a replacement.

They will need to demonstrate that the problem wasn’t present on the day that it was sold. If they can show that it was, and that you knew about it, then you won’t be able to get any money back.

Don’t forget eBay

You can of course bid for a motor on eBay too, with the auction site having a pretty sizeable motoring section covering everything from individual parts up to full vehicles.

As with any other auction on eBay , you can contact the seller to get more information about the item you’re bidding on, and potentially haggle on the price.

There’s plenty of room for the seller to tell you all about the vehicle, so if there’s something important missing don’t be shy about contacting them directly to find out why.

Checking the seller’s feedback history is a good indicator to how reliable they are likely to be, while looking into the ownership history can be useful too.

You may end up with a better deal if they have owned the car a long time and looked after it, rather than picked it up a matter of months ago and are now looking to flog it.

Swap your car online

One slightly different way of doing things is through PaymentSwap , a site that essentially lets you trade in your current car for a new motor online.

The idea is that you put in your registration number, so the site can work out the best price you can get from dealers and auctions across the country, which you can then use as a deposit on a new motor.

You can then browse through the thousands of used cars available through the site, each of which has been given a once over by the partner dealerships.

You just have to pick the vehicle you want to go for, and the finance plan, and tell them your preferred date for the swap.

Then you simply have to drive to the selected dealership in your current car, hand over the keys, and you’ll be able to drive off in your new motor.

You can specify that you’d like a test drive first if you prefer as well.

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