Money Matters: How to find a bargain on a used car

New car number plates were released in the UK in September, meaning now is the perfect time to pick up a used car at a good price. Greg Potter, Head of Member Experience at Leeds Credit Union, explains how.

In Great Britain, approximately 78% of households have one or more cars, with people changing their car every six years on average.

This adds up to a significant number of cars being bought and sold every year and, with the cost of living continuing to rise, more and more people are opting to buy a used car instead of a new one.

As new number plates were only recently released, now is the ideal time to pick up a quality used car for less. Here’s some advice on getting maximum value for money.

Timing is everything

The period immediately after the release of new number plates is the best times to buy a used car because:

1) people are rushing to part-exchange their old cars for a new one, leaving dealers with a surplus of used cars to sell on, and
2) once new plates are released, dealers start clearing out their old cars to make room for them, meaning they’re more likely to accept a lower price in order to free up room on their forecourts.

Know your trim levels

Trim levels are essentially different variants of the same car – for example, if you decide to buy a Mini Cooper, you will then have to choose between the Classic, Signature or Iconic versions.

This basically means how many optional extras do you want/need your car to have? The more you want, the higher the cost.

If you just want to jump in and drive off, go for the cheapest version.

MOT, tax and service history

When buying a used car, the only way to know for sure that it’s reliable is to get your hands on its service book and go through the stamps that are in it – these will tell you the dates when the car was serviced and how many miles it had done between each service.

To be extra sure the car’s as good as it seems, use the DVLA’s free Online Enquiry Service to check its current tax and MOT status by entering the registration number and vehicle make.

Every car more than three years old must have its MOT renewed every year so you ideally want a car that has recently passed its MOT as this means you won’t have to pay to have it tested again for several months.

If the MOT isn’t current and/or the tax expired a long time ago, there’s a chance the car has been off the road for a significant period of time and, if so, it’s important to find out why. If the dealer can’t give you a good reason, avoid at all costs!


Leeds Credit Union provides straightforward and affordable financial services to people in Leeds.

Photo: Shutterstock


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