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How To Guides When & Where to Buy

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If you need to apply for, renew or replace a licence, or have any other vehicle enquiry, you may also contact Drivers' Customer Services, Correspondence Team, DVLA, SA6 7JL or the Vehicle Customer Services, DVLA, SA99 1AR. You also may be able to use the vehicle and licensing services at a Post Office®.

When to Buy

Because new number plate registrations become available in March and September, lots of people part-exchange their car for a new one. This causes an over supply which drives used car prices down. Mid-March to early May and Mid-September to early November are regarded as the best times to buy used cars.

Where To Buy

Franchise Dealers


  • Approved used car scheme
  • High quality cars
  • Lots of legal ‘comeback’ if you have a problem. The new European directive means you now have six months to complain
  • Will offer part exchange


  • Expensive car prices and labour prices
  • Better value warranties and finance can be arranged privately
  • Limited range of makes
  • Service not necessarily better than independents

Independent Dealers


  • Reasonable prices
  • More inclined to give a discount
  • Legal ‘comeback’ if you have a problem
  • Will offer part exchange
  • Specialists really know their stuff and care about their reputation, so they offer a good service
  • Find a good independent or independent specialist and you will have the best experience


  • Quality varies significantly. You must judge them on a case-by-case basis.
  • Better value warranties can be arranged privately, so do not let the dealer use it as a negotiation tool to keep the car price up

Car Supermarkets


  • Lots of stock, you can drive away with a car
  • Pretty good prices
  • Lots of legal ‘comeback’ if you have a problem


  • Check all the prices carefully; some will not be as much of a saving as the much talked about offers
  • Better value warranties and finance can be arranged privately
  • Limited movement on price
  • Not as interested in part exchange like dealers Customer care can vary
  • Cars sold as ‘new’ because they are low mileage, but actually may already have one owner in the log book
  • Cars can be imports
  • You can sometimes be charged a standard ‘pre-sale’ inspection fee. This is you paying for a valet and administration costs. Check the small print.

Private Sales


  • The best prices (if you do it right) Endless choice
  • If you know what to do, you can have the same peace of mind as from any other option
  • This is the most satisfying way to buy a car. And should be the cheapest too.


  • No legal comeback (but you can get other protection such as a private warranty)
  • You need to spend slightly more time to ensure you get a great deal and a great car
  • No part exchange



  • Amazing bargains can be found
  • Fun way to buy a car


  • A lot of stock arrives at auctions because it would not sell elsewhere
  • You have limited opportunities to check the car
  • No part exchange
  • Intimidating environment where it is easy to over-bid because you are forced to think quickly
  • Limited legal comeback (you must read the auction house's terms and conditions before bidding to find out what comeback you have)

Direct Internet Buying


  • Bargains can be found on new, nearly new and used cars
  • Highly convenient.


  • Legal comeback depends on who is selling the car
  • You may have to buy ‘unseen’
  • Not the same customer care or contact point as buying from a showroom or individuals
  • Organising payment can present problems