BUYING A CAR can be a daunting experience for many, yet it needn’t be this way. With a little research, knowledge and confidence, you can drive not only the car of your dreams but a hard bargain too. Here’s how to get the best deal for you, not the dealer.

Around 90% of used car sales are still through dealers, whether they are independent or part of a car manufacture’s franchised dealership. Either way, the way to buy is the same.

The first thing to do is decide is how much you are willing to spend. Stick to your budget and don’t be tempted with seemingly cheap finance deals. By going in prepared, you will come out happy.

Choose which car you want, whether it’s new or used. Work out the specification you want and need, plus any extras you think are desirable. This will tell you how much you should pay for the car either by looking up the new car’s price or checking out other similar used cars via online classified and auction websites.

When you know what you want, now’s the fun bit when you can start shopping. The internet is the best place to start and it saves you walking round windy forecourts all day long. Don’t be afraid to search further afield than your local town as often the best deal will be further away.

Speak to dealers on the phone. One who is friendly and helpful over the phone will be easier to deal with in person. Ask lots of questions and don’t be fobbed off with answers you’re not happy with.

Once you have narrowed your search to a handful of cars, now’s the time for a test drive. Take the car for a longer drive and on the sorts of roads you’ll be likely to use it.

Now for haggling. Dealers build in a margin to cover their costs, profit and haggling, so don’t be shy to ask for a hefty discount. The worst a dealer can say is ‘no’. Be realistic, though, as there will be a price the dealer knows he has to achieve.

Keep things friendly and calm, but don’t be fooled by a dealer saying he will have to ask his boss about a reduced price. If the salesman cannot do this directly with you, ask to speak to someone who can.

Also, don’t be railroaded into another car you’re not interested in – dealers often do this to shift cars that have been lingering on the forecourt. Stick to what you want.

Remember that dealers have sales targets, so buying at the end of the month can work in your favour as a dealer will be keen to boost sales at the month’s end. Don’t tell the dealer what your maximum budget is as they will then not go below this point.

When you have a deal sorted, ask for everything in writing to confirm it. Also, know your legal rights with the Sale of Goods Act, but don’t mess a dealer about by being a tyre kicker either.

If you cannot agree on a price, be ready to walk away. This is the buyer’s ultimate weapon in car buying as you are the one with the money.

You are the one in the position of power as the buyer with money to spend, so spend it wisely and bag yourself a bargain.

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