Buying a car - How to save money

Hello my name is Colin Trippas and I have been running Kingshurst Automotive for the last 34 years. During that time I have seen quite a few problems customers have got into with their cars, so I thought why not put some of my experience on paper? You never know it may help you save some of your hard earned cash or make running your car a little less fraught.

This month I would like to cover a few tips on how do you go about buying a second hand car. Quite often we see cars just after they have been purchased - Not the best time during the process, as you will see later.

Firstly I don't have to tell you about how expensive new or old cars are!

When they are new there is virtually no mechanical maintenance to pay, there is just large amounts of depreciation. The last Golf I bought lost a whacking £300/month before I sold it after 3.5 years. As they get older the depreciation drops to nothing but the repairs climb with full services, brakes, cam belts and clutches all requiring attention. So there is no cheap way to do it but there is a lot you can do to minimise the costs.

The choice you make and the way you go about buying a second hand can make a big difference to the hole it leaves in your pocket not just when you purchase it but the complete cost of ownership.

I am surprised at the small amount of "homework" some people do before they spend their hard earned cash on a car they intend to keep for some time. People like trade in's - Drive your old car in and drive out with something new within a few hours. Unfortunately that is just about the most expensive way of doing it.

Quite often the only knowledge they have of the car when they leave is what the salesman has told them and the better he or she is at selling cars then the better the story.

TIP1 You can't find anything about the mechanical condition of a car by listening to someone talk about it you need to have it checked on a ramp and road tested by a competent mechanic.

During the sales process the salesman will often either throw in a used car warranty or try to sell you one. The glossy warranty document will go into great detail of what it covers listing just about every part of a car. However hidden in the small print is exactly what can be claimed under the cover and that always refers to a mechanical breakage. That is fine but in my experience apart from a cam belt nothing usually breaks on a car. When something gets worn it makes a noise or you can hear a rattle from it. For a component to literally break in two or fall off is almost unheard of and if you think about it, if the warranty covered every bit of ball joint play, squeak or rattle you would have an open charter to have your car rebuilt, which no insurance could cover.

TIP2 It might make you feel a little safer when you purchase a second hand car with a used car warranty but my experience when I have tried to claim on behalf of a customer is that very few get through.

If you spend some time looking at used car websites such as www.autotrader.co.uk you will get a good feel of what you car is worth then why not have a go of selling it yourself? When you come to buy a replacement you will then have the cash in your pocket and that as they say is king.

If a car salesman is making you a better offer on your car than you know its worth then the only way he can do that is by inflating the cost of the car he is trying to sell you, it's got to come from somewhere.

TIP3 Do not loose site of what a realistic value is for your old car.

When you buy a second hand car from a trader you will have no idea of what type of person has owned the car previously. It could have been a young lad who has driven the car hard and has never heard about the word servicing or it could have been a more mature driver that follows service schedules meticulously.

TIP4 Have you thought of buying privately? As soon as you meet the owner you start to get a picture of how the car has been looked after. If you can raise the finance for the car yourself from a bank or building society you can save yourself 100's if not 1000's of pounds. This is without doubt the best way to buy a second hand car provided you get it checked out mechanically before you part with your cash.

Choosing a car can be a very emotive thing but if you concentrate on items like build quality and parts availability in the aftermarket then that will help to reduce the total cost of ownership.

TIP5 By stretching to a better make or more popular car that will greatly help to reduce your running costs. For what it's worth I am a fan of German cars and the availability of parts for Ford cars in the UK is second to none.

When looking at the maintenance history of a car don't rely on the stamps in the service book because you will never know whether they relate to oil & filter changes or proper full services. With the recession car owners are cutting corners.

TIP6 Always ask to see invoices when trying to get a true picture of what's been done to a car. If it's done over 60,000 miles and is more than 6 / 8 years old ask if the cam belt has been replaced if it hasn't then check to see when its due. Cam belts are expensive things to replace and if they drive the water pump that will need checking at the same time / replacing.

Did you know the cost of vehicle tax is based on engine size, fuel type or carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions?

TIP7 Go on line and get familiar with the different car taxation groups some of the more modern cars are completely free of vehicle tax!

I hope that's been of some use, make the right decisions early on and you can save yourself a lot of money.

That's it for this month if you've got a motoring question on buying a car or having it repaired and would like some advice you can contact me on my face book page at www.facebook.com/kingshurstautomotive or give me a ring at work on 0121 770 9377. See you next month, Colin