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As you probably know we here at Independent Motors get, and answer, a lot of queries every day/week from people thinking of buying a car.

Most of them are looking at buying a secondhand motor.

It is one of the great privileges and pleasures for me to be in a position to maybe, in a small, way give a little guidance.

The amazing thing is how many people are worrying about the same things.

They include trading in their own car, wondering what it is really worth, should they buy here or import? – and so on.

So on the basis of such a high and continuous level of demand for straightforward advice I’ve come up with 10 things, in random order, that I think could help you make the right decision.

1 Being able to buy ‘straight’ is always a big advantage. Not having a car to trade-in means a dealer doesn’t have to worry about disposing of yours and that should save you money.

If you can dispose of your car privately – even at a bit of a moderately reduced price – it can help get you a better newer-car deal.

By the same token, trying to sell privately has its pitfalls.

Apart from having to take a potentially lower price, you may have the car on your hands for longer than you’d have liked.

One thing testing the private-sale route is good for is knowing what the car is really worth at a given time.

It should help to clearly discern which is the better route – private or trade-in – for you to take.

2 Always remember when buying secondhand you are doing just that – purchasing something that has been used, well or badly, by its current/previous owner(s).

So there will be wear and tear; there will be signs of use. What you have to do it assess if the use is of an acceptable level for the age of, and mileage on, the car.

I’ve always gone on gut instinct. A car with 70,000km on the clock with heavily worn brake, clutch and accelerator pedals should have you wondering if it hasn’t been clocked.

Be cautious and wary especially if buying privately. Just be extra careful.

3 Be realistic in valuing your car. Check ads, websites etc and see what is being asked for models approximating yours in the major areas.

Just remember some asking prices are seriously inflated. There can be large differences in what is paid.

Try to strike a balance between expectations and market reality. Don’t give your car away but holding out for every last euro could mean you have it on your hands for a long time too.

4 As ever, shop around energetically. It’s such an obvious thing to do and makes so much sense but people often just stay with the outlet they’ve bought from before.

I’m all for loyalty and there is much to be said for a long-term relationship.

But a bit of research can strengthen your hand in any deal – be it with an old or new dealer.

I usually advise people to buy locally and from a reputable dealer. That doesn’t stop you from shopping around though, does it?

5 And shop around for finance. It’s really competitive out there at the moment, but I still say give your local credit union and banks a chance to see what they can offer.

There is an increase in PCP deals for newer/fresher cars that are worth considering too if you’re in that area of the market.

Above all, make sure you know what you’re signing up for.

I always urge people to take a day or two to take all the figures into consideration.

And remember if a dealer can’t do you a better price on a car, maybe he or she can cut the APR rate a little.

You won’t know until you ask.

6 It is worth spending a few euro on getting a full, verified history check from a reputable data provider.

There is an old adage often quoted by my erstwhile colleague Aidan Timmons: “If you think a good car costs a lot of money, wait until you buy a bad one.”

If the history check turns up anything remotely dubious, then walk away.

That’s especially the case if the car is being bought privately.

Buying cheaper cars on the private market poses greater risks (and you have limited legal comeback) so a history check is essential.

7 Should you buy an import from a local garage and/or travel to seal your own deal up North or across the water?

The answer is yes if it makes real financial sense to take one or all routes.

But, again, I advocate giving your local dealer a chance to do business (many have imports anyway).

Imports – all projected 100,000-plus of them this year – need to be extensively checked and proven to be clean and clear just like any other car.

You need everything from the seller to the car’s history.

8 There is a big, big volume of used cars out there now. That’s good if you’re buying and not so good if you are selling.

But don’t get caught up in thinking you are taking a hit on yours.

The only thing that matters is what the next car is going to cost you NET of trade-in.

The Cost of Change is your only barometer of a deal.

The less the better. Concentrate on that.

9 I get some sad stories from people who could almost certainly have avoided a lot of trouble if, before shaking on a private deal, they got someone, preferably a mechanic, to give it a good checkout.

Along with a history check a physical, on-the-ground assessment is invaluable before you commit to parting with your money.

10 If buying from an established dealer (and that would be my preference for most people) go for as long a warranty as is feasible; even if it costs a few euro more. Be clear on what is covered – parts and labour or just parts?

Asking questions beforehand is one of the great ways to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment when trouble brews.

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