- Choosing a used car
The DCC Guide to Choosing a Used Car
The DCC Guide to Choosing a Used Car
Every year millions of used cars are sold across the UK, and each one of those millions of buyers had to choose which vehicle they were going to own next.
For some people this is likely to be a no-brainer; when people find a vehicle they love they often buy the next-generation version when theirs gets a little more elderly. For others, especially those for whom things are changing, such as the need for extra seats or luggage space, there is a large and sometimes complex decision to be made.
In this guide, we aim to help you cut out the procrastination around choosing your next used car and help you narrow down the options to a select few cars which may be ideal for your lifestyle.
Choosing a Used Car
Choosing your next used car can feel like a big question, and how and where to even start looking for your next purchase can be a bit of a minefield. Let’s start with the basics and start to narrow down your options.
Which features are essential in your next used car?
As a starting point, think about your non-negotiable, must-have features. Here are some ideas to get you started:
The number of doors - if you have kids, dogs, or regularly have people in the back of the car, a three-door car could be an inconvenient choice.
Safety features - A good safety rating is an essential factor for many people when buying used cars. The Euro NCAP website is a great way to see detailed safety ratings of most cars quickly and easily.
Transmission - Most drivers have a preference, sometimes due to the number of miles they drive each year, some time to do with fuel economy, or you may even have an ‘auto only’ license. Either way, the right transmission is a must-have for the majority of drivers.
Fuel Economy - Do you drive a lot of miles? With the cost of fuel at record highs at the time of writing, the MPG and range of your next car have never been more important if you are a high mileage driver.
Impact on the environment - With electric and hybrid cars becoming more popular all the time, many drivers consider buying a car with a low environmental impact to be an essential part of the purchase.
Boot space - If you transport large items, dogs, or anything else sizeable in the boot, decent boot space is a must-have
What other features would you like your next car to have?
Ok, we’ve narrowed down the essentials, what other features would you like to have?
Engine size - You may think that engine size should be in the ‘essentials’ category, but you might be surprised. A little research and a test drive is the best way to determine the suitability of any car you are considering buying, and in some cases not fully understanding the implications of the engine size of the car you are interested in can mean the difference between finding your perfect car and putting it on the ‘no’ pile before you’ve even started.
For example, the 2009-2017 SEAT Ibiza 1.6FR offered 103bhp and 0-60 in 10.2 seconds. The replacement to this in 2017 was a smaller 1.2 engine, but the addition of a turbo and supercharger meant it achieved 104bhp and 0-60 in 9.8 seconds. The tax decreased from £165 to £35 thanks to these changes too! Had you narrowed it down to only engines over 1.6, you would have missed out on this economical and low tax equivalent.
Technology options - If you always use Bluetooth in your car, or use satnav on a regular basis, these are options you may be keen to keep when you buy your next used car. Not strictly essential for most people, but many of us would hate to be without them!
Upgraded alloys and trim - When buying a used car, the initial curb appeal can make a big difference in helping decide which car to buy. Stuck between two cars but one has standard 16” wheels and the other has 19s and upgraded trim? That could be the only difference between the two and often makes the decision for you.
Parking sensors - If you’ve had parking sensors before it can be hard to go without them, and no one wants to damage their new car purchase!
Sports seats - The marmite of the car-buying world, sports seats provide ultimate driving comfort for some and a sore back for others! If you haven’t had sports seats before and are interested in a car that has them, ensure you test drive the car first, along with any regular passengers.
Other factors to consider when choosing a used car
When you are looking for your next used car, it is good to have a few benchmarks going in, to help you narrow down what you would be happy with in your next car.
Mileage - The average petrol car does around 12,000 per year the average diesel is around 20,000 miles per year. Some people write off high mileage vehicles immediately but hold your horsepower for a moment.
Low mileage used cars
Low mileage vehicles are of course generally more desirable and come with a slightly higher price tag as they have been subject to less wear and tear from driving fewer miles in their lives. This is usually a good thing, but it is not always a golden ticket. Some owners of low mileage cars may feel that because the miles are low, the car needs less servicing and does not stick to the manufacturer's recommended intervals, which can mean trouble later down the line. Equally, it is not good for a car to sit on a driveway for months at a time, they need to be run.
Low mileage used cars are usually a great purchase but don’t make it your sole focus and be sure to balance out the benefits of a low mileage vehicle against all the other factors discussed here.
High mileage used cars
Some high mileage vehicles, especially diesel engine cars, were company cars in a previous life. This can mean they were driven a little hard, but it also means they will have a full-service history (FSH) and have been looked after at the main dealer with regular services and anything that needed fixing would have been taken care of as the cost is not the driver’s concern. An ex-fleet car can be a great choice as a younger, higher-mileage used car option. Most modern cars will happily do in excess of 150,000 miles without major hiccups if they are well looked after.
High mileage cars can put people off, but bear in mind the car could be ex-fleet, and make sure to consider all your options so you don’t miss out on a great used car purchase.
Age - The age of the car you buy is something to consider carefully. Gone are the days when older cars rusted out, lost their paint, or started to slowly fall apart. However, like the rest of us, over time some parts start to creak and require a little more attention to keep them in good shape. Any car being sold by a used car dealer should be of an age where it still has plenty of life left in it. Buying a used car that has been thoroughly checked before sale, and that comes with a warranty and breakdown cover is advisable for peace of mind.
Features - You have made your ‘must haves’ and ‘would be nice’ options list, but make sure to read up the full specification of the cars you are looking at buying. It may be that they have some additional features you hadn’t thought of that would be great to have.
Colour - Seems like a simple one. Pick a colour you want, but do bear in mind the likelihood of finding the colour you want, and importantly the resale value associated with that colour. You may dream of a Fiat 500 in a non-metallic aubergine finish, but not many people do, and you may struggle to sell it for a good price at the other end. Black and grey cars generally hold their value better, and there are more of them available.
Potential resale value (RSV) - Continuing the last point in the previous section, when looking at used cars to buy either online or in person, consider the likely residual value of your vehicle and factor this into your decision-making. A low RSV is not always a bad thing, it means you should be buying the car at a cheaper price than other options of a similar age and specification, but be aware a lower price at the start usually means a lower price at the end.
Which Used Car Should I Buy?
As with most elements of buying a used car, it’s all a balance between what you want, what you need, and what is sensible and affordable.
Hopefully, by now you have started to get a picture of the car that would suit you best. Getting a balance between the size, economy, features, and comfort of the car are a few of the main elements you may want to think about, and this should lead you to which body type suits you best with relative ease.
Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV)
SUVs generally offer a good amount of space, a good height, and high safety specifications. You’ll find good-to-generous- boot space and a good range of engine sizes and transmission options.
The trusty estate car is one of the most practical car body styles on the market. Still car-sized as opposed to SUV or larger, the estate car often has a cavernous boot of the same size as an SUV or even bigger, depending on the number of seats. The perfect family car, the estate offers plenty of space for everyone and is easy to park due to the abundance of windows all the way around the vehicle.
Saloon cars are a great middle-size vehicle to cover a range of lifestyles. You’ll find a popular style for business people, and a practical vehicle for couples with or without kids.
Zippy, easy to park, and ergonomic with generally impressive miles per gallon, hatchbacks are great for nipping around town and for anyone who doesn’t need a huge amount of space.
A sporty and sleek body style, the coupe is a body style that has never gone out of fashion. Most marques will have just one or two in their range but they are usually a beautiful addition to the range, designed for those who only need two doors and often limited boot space.
The UK buys more convertible cars than any of our European cousins in sunnier climes; we just love them! A convertible car is a real treat for enjoying sunny days and feeling the wind in your hair.
Brand - You may have preconceptions of certain brands or marques, either based on previous experience, the experiences of others, or the press. While it is always good to live and learn, try not to tar the entire brand with the same brush if you have experienced or heard something negative.
Brand evolve constantly, a good example being Skoda, who just a few decades ago were dismissed out of hand but actually build solid, dependable cars at a reasonable price and are now getting the respect they deserve.
You may have been told that cars from a certain country are better than others, but don’t let this deter you from test driving the car you want to drive, no matter the origin or name. There is no such thing as a ‘bad car’ anymore, and it would be beneficial to your purchasing journey to push these preconceptions to the bottom of your checklist.
Budget - Absolutely key to making a sensible car buying decision is budget. Determine what you think you can afford before you start looking, and try out some finance examples to give you an idea of what repayments look like. Every car in the DCC stocklist has a finance example right on the thumbnail image so you can instantly see what every car for sale might cost on a monthly basis.
Finance - Before you visit a dealership it is useful to have a basic understanding of used car finance agreements. Nothing too technical, just a basic idea of what type of finance might suit you. This will give you a better understanding of what you are being offered and what kind of finance will suit your future plans. Always talk to the dealership finance manager and make sure you fully understand any agreement you are entering into.
Buying a Used Car from DCC
Speak to the sales team at DCC about any car in our live used car stocklist at any time to get a competitive price and low finance deals.
You can start your car buying journey with DCC online or pop into one of our showrooms.
Every used car from DCC comes with:
- 128 point AA approved inspection check
- Minimum 6 month MOT
- Minimum 6 month/6,000 miles before next service
- 12 month AA breakdown cover
- 6-month warranty with lifetime warranty available
- All tyres under 3mm replaced before sale
- All brakes over 70% worn replaced before the sale
Browse DCC Used Car Stock and Buy Quickly and Easily
View the full range of cars available at DCC’s three Hampshire used car sites. View finance examples for every car we sell and arrange a walkaround on any vehicle which takes your interest. Our sales team is available to answer any questions you have about buying a used car online, contact our used car sales team today or visit one of our showrooms in Southampton, Fareham, or Waterlooville.