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Expert’s 20 tips to get you the best deal when buying or flogging a used motor

FANCY getting the most bucks for your old banger – or not paying over the odds for a new set of wheels?

Prices for used cars have hit a record high in what has been described as a “used-car gold rush”.

Prices for used cars have hit a record high in what has been described as a 'used-car gold rush'Credit: Getty

It is down to delays of up to a year for some new models due to supply-chain issues and a shortage of microchips.

So customers are having to buy used vehicles instead and demand is pushing up prices by thousands of pounds.

The Sun on Sunday’s used car expert and friendly secondhand sales-man, “Ask Alfie”, said: “The prices of used cars at the moment is unprecedented.

“We were all taught when growing up that secondhand cars depreciate, but at the moment that’s not the case — it’s a gold rush.

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“It’s a sellers’ market, so buyers need to beware they don’t pay over the odds and my message is: Do your research.”

Below are his top ten steers for buyers and for sellers . . . 

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Buying tips

Ask Alfie says: 'The prices of used cars at the moment is unprecedented'Credit: Shutterstock
  1. Make a budget: Work out what you can afford, particularly if you plan to take out a loan. Work out monthly repayments – and stick to them.
  2. Do your research: Check vehicles of similar age and condition so you aren’t paying over the odds. And if a car has not got its V5C (log book), walk away.
  3. View safely: If you are buying privately check that the listed keeper is selling the car from the address stated on the V5C. Don’t meet at an isolated location. Also cross- reference the V5C against the chassis number and registration.
  4. Check paperwork: This includes service history and the MoT history online. Make sure the mileage matches the paperwork. How long is left on the MoT and are there any advisories?
  5. Inspect carefully: Look at the interior and exterior in daylight so you get a good view. Uneven panel gaps or paint that doesn’t match can point to damage that’s been poorly repaired. Check all the windows open and close and that the air conditioning works. Chafed seat belts and shiny steering wheels and pedalscan signal heavy use – does that fit with the odometer?
  6. Go for a decent test drive: Listen for any noises or handling quirks. Check it’s cold when it starts up. If they have pre-warmed it, it can hide cold-starting issues. Any danger signs of blue smoke out of the exhaust are more likely to show up starting from cold.
  7. Check everything is there: This includes the spare wheel (if it is meant to have one), vehicle handbook and spare keys. Does the car have locking wheel nuts and is the adaptor there?
  8. Check its history: Before you agree to pay anything, do an HPI check with a company such as the RAC.
  9. Don’t carry large amounts of cash: Be careful as you could be scammed or robbed. And always get a receipt – even from a private seller – as a form of proof. Get the V5C new owner slip, too.
  10. Keep your options open: Have other cars in the pipeline. Be prepared to walk away if it’s not what you are expecting.

Selling tips

Ask Alfie says: 'It’s a sellers’ market, so buyers need to beware they don’t pay over the odds'Credit: Getty
  1. Clean it up: If your car looks grotty, potential buyers may think you have not taken care of it. Pay for a full valet then take quality photos for the ad.
  2. Do research: Check other cars with the same mileage and spec. If yours had extras when bought new, state them. There are valuation services that dealers can use, but you pay. Look instead at sites like Auto Trader and Parkers.
  3. Preparation: Get paper-work together – your V5C (log book), owner’s manual, MoT and full service manual if you have it. Oh, and find those spare keys.
  4. Dealer or online? What do you want more – a quick sale or top price? If the former, look at websites that offer to buy cars quickly. You take a hit on price but now the market is strong so websites are offering better prices. If you want more money, you need to list it yourself on a site like Auto Trader. And dealers are desperate for stock right now.
  5. Sales pitch: Describe your car to the max, listing all features and including any of those pricey extras.
  6. Be honest: Do be up front about any minor faults. Or it may cost you later.
  7. Leave a margin for haggling: If you want at least, say, £15,500, you might want to list it at £15,995.
  8. Security: Once you have a potential buyer, maybe meet at a garage or supermarket where there is CCTV. Any-one dodgy will know they will be filmed.
  9. Vehicle crime: Give a likely buyer basic details by phone but not such as the vehicle identification number – a genuine buyer can find that on the car, usually on the base of the windscreen. Do not give out details that could lead to identity theft.
  10. Test drive: A buyer will want a test drive. But you need to see a certificate that they are insured to drive your car, and a valid driving licence. If they are genuine, they will not be offended. Always accompany your customer on a test drive. And leaving the engine running as you switch seats is an opportunity for thieves, so switch off the car and take the key with you as you do so. Do not let a prospective buyer go off in your car without you.
Dacia Sandero - Used: £12,481, New: £10,172Credit: Handout
Audi A1 - Used: £24,871, New: £24,587Credit: Handout
Ford Fiesta - Used: £22,108, New: £17,905
Toyota Yaris - Used: £42,356, New: £21,080Credit: Handout
Mini 2-door - Used: £39,218, New: £22,565