In the build-up to starting a family, I remember how everyone kept drumming into us about how our lives would change, but I never fully comprehended just how correct they would be. It’s amazing how everything – even the little, seemingly unimportant everyday things – are barely recognisable from what they once were. The food we eat, the clothes we buy, the places we go – it’s all very different these days!

Of course, another thing that changed with the arrival of the little-uns is our car. The little run-around I used to have was never going to cut it, so upsizing was a natural progression. You might be finding yourself in a similar boat right about now, and if second-hand cars are what you have in mind, it’s important to have a bit of savvy before you make your purchase.

So, I thought I’d offer five points of advice to help ensure that you drive away with peace of mind, and a car that will serve you and the family well for many years to come:

  • Decide what you need


It may sound obvious, but have a real think about what you’re after. Will you be covering a lot of mileage? A lot of motorway driving? Are you after something bigger than a 5-seater? In that case you might be best looking at diesels, which would be more fuel efficient. Otherwise if you’re thinking about something smaller, and are generally just going to be making shorter trips in residential areas, a petrol engine will be more suitable. Once you’ve narrowed this down, be sure to do your homework on the resultant pool of candidates. What are the running costs? Fuel consumption? Road Tax and MOT? Insurance? Service and repair costs? Cover those bases, and you’re well on your way.

  • Be clever with financing


The final budget you’re comfortable with is entirely subjective, but if you decide to turn to car finance in order to fund the car you really want, make sure you get a good deal. Peer-to-peer lenders

offer some of the best-value personal loans for vehicle purchases, with a swift and convenient application process. But be sure to check out some price comparison sites to ensure that you get the best deal you can. After all, the last thing you want is to drive away in your new car knowing you’ll be stuck with expensive loan repayments.

  • Dig a little deeper


This is really important… make sure that the car isn’t stolen, hasn’t been written off, and that its identity and history check out. Simply go on the DVLA website and type in the make and registration number, and it should pull up all the information you need. If there is any discrepancy with the details, turn around and walk out the door! However, if everything seems okay, still make sure you gather as much as you can in the way of certificates and paperwork from the seller.

  • Take her for a spin


Obviously do a once over of the car, and check for dents and damage to the bodywork. You’ll also want to have a look at the oil, water, engine, and test the non-engine electrics. But it is a basic 5-minute test drive that will tell you the most about the reliability of the car. If you’re not an expert on cars, make sure you go with someone else who is. And if none of your friends or family can help, you can even pay a professional to come along to do a check-over and a test drive. Make sure you do this part right – a bit of attention to detail at this stressful time will go a long way to ensuring peace of mind in the long run.

  • Haggle, haggle and haggle some more


No salesman with both feet on the ground expects to receive the advertised asking price. It’s not something which comes easily to all of us, but as a rule of thumb, pick a number that you have in mind, and start lower than that. Remember too that you can induce significant discounts by offering to pay cash, or by pointing out that any required repairs should be factored into the final price. Stick to your guns, and remember that, nine times out of 10, it is you, the buyer, who holds the aces.

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