Buying a used car ?...  It's dead easy, you just take your old car and a bag full of used tenners to a dealer and swap both for a real bargain previously driven only on Sundays by a little old lady and, if you're really good at haggling, you get to keep a few tenners and your charmingly naive belief in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

Of course it hasn't really been like that for many years or more and if it were your bagful of tenners might very soon be the subject of inquiries by the Inland Revenue, Police, Customs and Excise etcetera.

If it’s so easy why, so often, does buying a used car end in disappointment and unexpected repair bills - or worse - as buyers are faced with paying the true price of their carelessness while the sharper witted vendor makes off with their hard earned cash.

In some cases an uninformed purchase can be fatal, every year there are stories of buyers of “chopped cars” crashing as the badly stuck together write-offs fall apart, in those circumstances lack of know-how can be deadly.

Every year trading standards officers throughout the UK receive 80, 000 complaints from angry  buyers of used cars. Unhappy used car buyers outnumber satisfied ones by a huge margin, why? Lack of know-how.

75% of the 25 million cars in the UK are more than 3 years old. The used car market has recently been estimated at some 6 million deals, £20 billion, annually. For most people motoring reality is not a shiny new car from a chrome and glass high street showroom but rather less pristine transport from a seedy back street dealership.

For many that car may be the most expensive purchase of their lives so why not get some know-how before buying.

In a recent survey by the AA just 40% of buyers said they felt in control of the situation when dealing with used car sales people and nearly 80% said they felt the need for more legislation to protect used car buyers.

Over the coming months we will publish abstracts from BUYING A USED CAR as a guide through the minefield of buying a second hand car, hints and tips to get you through the car buying game to finding a real bargain not a real dog, a good, reliable, car at the right price, not a chunk of dodgy tin from a market place with a terrible reputation - much of it deserved.

How to choose what you need... or want, shortlisting models, valuing the car, visiting dealers, checking the car over, road testing it, finding the hidden faults, haggling the right price, ensuring it’s all legal, checking the paperwork, the best finance, your legal rights, costs of ownership, servicing, solving problems, understanding the latest technology, fault finding charts, fixes and repairs.

BUYING A USED CAR provides quick, clear, tips on how to buy a second hand bargain. When you are about to enter shark infested waters it’s a good idea to put on some protective armour. BUYING A USED CAR will show you how to survive in hostile waters.

Always bear in mind 2 epigrams “You normally get what you pay for” and “a fool and his money are soon parted”. Both are very relevant when buying used cars.

Abstracted from the book “Buying a Used Car” © G Benge 1997-2007

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