It can be all too easy to spend an absolute fortune on second-hand cars. Make the wrong purchase and you could be forking out hundreds or even thousands to the garage in maintenance charges.

Too often the used car market can seem like a veritable minefield but there are ways and means of approaching dealerships and private sellers to avoid being ripped off.

Here are a few simple things to keep in mind to help you find a reliable used car that won’t break the bank.

Stick to your budget

One of the easiest ways to ensure you don’t overspend when buying a used car is to ascertain how much you can afford to spend. This should include the price of the car, car insurance, maintenance and running costs. If a vehicle is within your budget but is widely renowned for being expensive to maintain then the figures just won’t add up.

Inspect each vehicle thoroughly

You don’t need to be a mechanic to be able to spot issues with second-hand vehicles. Although, if you are very new to the car buying process, it may be advisable to take an experienced family member or friend along with you for an extra pair of eyes. Inspect each vehicle as thoroughly as possible, reviewing the car’s documentation, car history, bodywork and ensuring all of the vehicle’s features are in full working order.

Be sure to check when the last service was and when the next one is needed. If it has recently been serviced this should be seen as a big plus, meaning it is in peak condition.

Road testing

Never be afraid to take an available used car out on the road for a test drive. After all, it is you who is going to be clocking up the miles if you decide it is the vehicle for you. A test drive of at least 15 minutes is highly recommended, testing it on different types of road, whilst monitoring gears, brakes and steering. Make sure you have suitable insurance cover before you set out however!

Be prepared to haggle

It is very common for dealerships and private used car sellers to initially overprice their vehicles. This is because many buyers are prepared to haggle to negotiate a lower, more realistic price. Make sure you go into any potential sale with your eyes wide open. Do your research and find out what the market value is for a car of similar age and mileage. Show that you are committed to thrashing out a deal, avoid being confrontational and you may be able to sweet-talk the seller down to a more manageable price.

Salvage car auctions

An alternative to buying a used car from a dealer or private seller is to consider the growing number of salvage car auctions. These are damage-repairable vehicles sourced direct from insurance companies who have retrieved cars from road accidents. If you know your way around a car bonnet and a chassis then this may be a clever way to pick up a bargain motor that you can restore and customise to your heart’s content.

Fuel economy

There is no point bagging a bargain used car if you later find out that its fuel economy is such that you find yourself at the fuel pumps every other day. Make sure you know the vehicle’s miles per gallon, how many miles you drive on average annually and budget accordingly.

Under no circumstances should you hand over a used car seller money for a vehicle without seeing it, testing it and without getting written documentation with all the necessary legal details.

Keep these tips firmly in mind and you will be better placed to avoid the con artists and pick up a reliable used car on a tight budget.

Author bio

‘How to pick up a reliable used car on the cheap’ was written by ASM Auto Recycling, widely regarded as the UK’s leading modern and professional vehicle salvage agents and used car parts recyclers. ASM understands the used car market well and is keen to help genuine buyers find genuine sellers.

By Jasmina