This is the safest way of buying as you get the maximum protection of the law. But there are dodgy dealers, so look for an established firm with a good reputation. Ask friends if they can recommend anyone.
Look for a garage whose cars have been part-inspected by the AA or the RAC. Ask to see the report on the car you want to buy. It will not be as detailed as one you pay for yourself, but will provide useful information. Or choose a dealer with a quality checking scheme, such as Ford Direct, Rover Direct or Vauxhall’s Network Q.
A trade association sign may mean that the firm follows a code of practice. The Retail Motor Industry Federation’s Motorline or the Scottish Motor Trade Association can tell you which local dealers subscribe to a code of practice supported by the Office of Fair Trading.
Before buying any car, and especially a used car, it is important to check the car’s condition thoroughly and test it out on the road. How does it feel on the road? Do the brakes provide smooth, reassuring braking? Rattles and ‘clunks’ will soon reveal themselves, even on a short trip around the block. If the car is more than three years old, check that it has a current MOT which states that the vehicle complies with certain criteria at a given date – it is not, however, a guarantee that any fault which may develop will be put right by the dealer.
A full service history is also very important to ensure that the vehicle has been properly looked after, and check that the mileage is warranted in writing to avoid any potential problems in the future. Ask to see the registration document and service record – does everything match up?