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They say that only fools rush in, and that's certainly true when buying used cars. Plan it like a military operation: draw up a list of cars you like and simply look at the first few just to get a feel of the model, what it's like to drive and common faults found, before starting the hunt in earnest. A wise owner also takes the time to enquire at main dealer the cost of certain repairs and spares, so as not to be shell-shocked the first time it's booked it at a garage…

One very simple rule applies to negotiations: if you don’t haggle, you stand every chance of getting ripped off. Salespeople fully expect you to haggle these days. While most of us prefer having teeth removed to haggling, if you strike a strong position you will earn respect and achieve the all-important goal of getting a better deal. Put bluntly, once you walk into a dealer showroom, there’s no alternative. If you don’t put up a fight and just accept the first price you are offered, you’re still haggling – it’s just that you’re not doing it very well. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to do it well. It doesn’t mean being offensive, just firm and polite. Doing it right should mean you spend less time doing it, too.

There are several ways to raise the cash required to purchase your dream car. You can take out a personal loan from a bank, opt for a traditional hire-purchase scheme, or even enter into a personal contract hire plan. The right option will necessarily depend on your circumstances, but the important thing to remember is that the money market is currently highly competitive, so there is no reason to accept poor terms.

Number crunching is a chore, but don’t let yourself be dazzled by an avalanche of figures. There are some competitive rates out there; equally there are some rip-off rates. Make sure you can afford the deposit, as low APR rates are often subsidised by steep deposits. Also don’t forget that you can also haggle for a lower APR - rates are not fixed in stone. If the dealer can't match rates offered elsewhere, simply borrow the money from a better source. Make sure you stick to your budget: “only £1 more a day” can add up pretty quickly.

We've covered the negotiation process, but it is important to remember to keep a cool head and not make the haggling process personal. You will have a predetermined budget, so make sure you stick to it. Once you have agreed on a price, if you are dealing with a private seller make sure you pay a deposit so you do not get 'gazumped'. Ask for a signed piece of paper written by the seller, detailing the date, type of car, included equipment (stereo, alarm) registration number, agreed price and deposit paid. A sensible deposit size is around £100 – enough to show the seller you're serious but also small enough to pull out of a hole in the wall.

Buying at a secondhand forecourt is different; you will be asked for a deposit in any case. Make sure you know exactly what you are paying for – attention to detail is key.
We hope you find this general advice useful.

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