How can I decide on the right used car for me?

There’s something really exciting about starting the search for your next car, and there’s no reason for it to be a bewildering experience.

Words by: First published: 2nd July 2015
Start by thinking about what you want from a car: how many seats do you need? How much room do you want inside? Will you spend most of your time in town, or do you need something that will cope with long motorway journeys? How important is fuel economy, and what are the tax and insurance implications of the car you’re considering? Are there any particular pieces of kit your car must have?

If you already have a good idea what sort of car you want, you can dive straight into our classified ads, but if you want a little more help, we can do that. By clicking on the ‘Help me choose…’ link and setting a few criteria, you can get us to do much of the legwork.

By adjusting a few sliding scales about things like performance, economy, practicality and price, we’ll produce a list of models that meet your criteria. From there, you can dive into our classifieds, where you can further narrow down your choice – by insurance group, colour and so on – before looking into the nitty gritty of individual cars.

Beyond that, our expert reviews will be able to help you answer many of the most important questions, and if you want a clear idea about what a car is like to live with, have a good look through the owner reviews. These will soon show if there are any recurring problems or reliability issues you should worry about.

In an ideal world, you want a car with a full service history, as few owners as possible, and which has led a fairly undemanding life. Remember, that doesn’t necessarily mean low mileage, as what’s more important is how those miles were driven: 10,000 miles around town could well be more wearing to a car than 30,000 on the motorway.

After that, it’s time to start calling up advertisers and fixing up viewings and test drives. Don’t dismiss cars that don’t exactly meet your criteria. If something isn’t quite right, you can always use that as a bargaining tool when you're sealing the deal.
Related topics:
Buying a used car