This blog post started out as useful advice for classic car buyers specifically, but all the tips below are equally valid for modern cars too. Enjoy!
DO Your Research
Work out a budget. This should range from the minimum you'd want to spend to the maximum you can afford. The very maximum number should take into consideration any work the car obviously needs, like new tyres or an MOT. This info is just for you, so you don't need to tell anyone what your budget is (and, need I say, definitely wouldn't suggest sharing it with the seller).
Next, if you know what car you want, do some research into current values, common faults and availability of parts. When you find a car you like the look of you can do a check on the DVLA website which will give you an in-depth breakdown of the car's MOT history. Pay attention to what it has previously failed on and look out for anything suspicious, like the mileage going down between MOTs. Don't take it all at face value though, a car that has sailed through many MOTs with no advisories can suggest an easy-going tester more than a problem-free car.
DO NOT Get Emotionally Involved
This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when buying a car (or anything, for that matter). As humans we're hard-wired to be hopelessly incapable of making rational decisions. But the best negotiators are always genuinely willing to walk away from a deal with no regrets.
Unless you're desperate for a car, you shouldn't feel a need to rush into anything and if the seller is pressuring you by, maybe, casually mentioning the MEGA HIGH LEVELS OF INTEREST he's had- that's generally a bad sign.
In a similar vein, do not take a friend/family member/partner with you who is just as, if not more, keen for you to own the car than you are. Which leads into my next point...
DO Take Someone with you who Knows What They're Looking At
And actually listen to their opinion too. If you're paying someone to look at a car for you, request a written summary with good and bad points, as well as estimates to sort out any immediate issues that they find. This will make it much easier for you to look at the situation objectively and could also give you some valuable leveraging power with the seller.
DO NOT Be Complacent
Follow up when people drop names. If the seller mentions "Highly Respected Specialist Garage" has worked on the vehicle, give them a call and ask them what they think about it.
People tend to exaggerate more than outright lie and friends of ours who actually do run a highly respected specialist garage have had calls about vehicles they'd only changed the oil on from potential buyers who were under the impression it had had a full resto by them!
DO Haggle on Price
I'm not some serial negotiator who advocates for haggling on absolutely everything, but when it comes to buying a car you should expect the seller to go down on price a little bit, or at least throw in something to sweeten the deal.
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