How to buy a used car: options for purchasing a second-hand car at a dealership or online

Before the rise of the internet, such buyers had limited options in finding a second-hand car, with car dealerships and classified adverts about the only choice.

While both options are still hugely popular if you don’t fancy wearing out your shoe leather traipsing around town, there are alternative methods to finding your next car.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

We’ve spoken to some of the biggest and newest players in the field of online used car sales to offer some guidance on the different options available.

AA Cars

AA Cars works with a network of approved dealers across the country, offering a stock of more than 160,000 vehicles at any one time. It offers more than just car sales, with the ability to source models and arrange finance in one place. All of the AA’s Approved partners have their vehicles rigorously inspected by an AA mechanic to offer buyers peace of mind. They also come with 12 months free AA breakdown cover – or an upgrade if you are already a member – and have a full history check to ensure they are not stolen or have ever been written off.

Auto Trader

Online classified sites such as Auto Trader offer a huge selection of models from ex-demonstrators to classics (Photo: Auto Trader)

Starting out as a weekly classifieds listing magazine Auto Trader is now the UK’s largest digital marketplace for new and used cars, with 55 million cross platform visits each month and the largest pool of vehicles sellers (listing around 450,000 cars each day), including 13,300 automotive retailers,Powered by its award-winning valuations, its Price Indicator highlights whether the price of a vehicle is low, great, good, fair or high compared to the wider market. This is in addition to prominently featuring retailer reviews, industry accreditation and awards, as well as a comprehensive vehicle check.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad


Cazoo is a new entry in the used car sales space and moves the entire process online, claiming that it is effectively ‘Amazon-ing’ the used car market.Unlike the AA and Auto Trader, it owns the vehicles it lists, with more than 2,200 cars in stock.Prices are fixed, so there’s no haggling required and buyers can purchase or finance a car entirely online within minutes and have it delivered direct to their door in as little as 72 hours. Cazoo offers a seven-day money-back guarantee and will collect any car if the buyer doesn’t love it.Every Cazoo car has been through a 150-point inspection and been fully reconditioned and comes with a free comprehensive 90-day warranty and RAC roadside assistance.

Cazoo offers an entirely online buying experience (Photo: Cazoo)


Perhaps the most traditional route for buyers looking for a used car. If customers are thinking of buying a used car from a dealer, they can go to a franchise dealership that also sells used cars, an independent used car dealer or a car supermarket. The obvious advantage of visiting and buying at a dealership is experiencing the car ‘in person’ and test driving it before purchase. There also tends to be room to negotiate on price. An ‘approved used’ car from a manufacturer’s franchised dealer is usually the most expensive used option, but the car should have been checked thoroughly, and it will come with a warranty. Independent dealers generally offer lower prices and more choice, as they’re not tied to a particular brand. However, any warranty offered may be limited and the quality of the cars is more variable. There’s also the old issue of having to visit multiple dealers to look at cars.

This article first appeared on our sister site The Scotsman