Welcome to our new Q&A series How to Car – From those ‘In the Know’, I am Rebecca Chaplin and I am here to answer your questions on ‘Buying a car’.
– Is there a good time to buy a car?
– What documents should a car come with?
– Simply don’t know how to make the first move?
Q: I have noticed a lot of cars with green on their number plates – particularly Teslas. What does the green mean?
A: Green number plates mean it’s a ‘green’ car, and a fully-battery electric one at that. The government introduced the new vehicle branding late last year as a way for EV drivers to show-off what they’re driving.
You’re not the first person to be confused by them though, with research showing many aren;t aware of what the plates mean.
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t compulsory, and if you want to fly under the radar with a more subtle EV or don’t want people thinking you’re displaying your political affinities on your vehicle, you don’t have to.
This change is worth seeing as a positive though, as the government acknowledges that EVs are a mainstream choice for a lot of British drivers these days.
Q: Would it be possible to tell me more about the Government grants for electric vehicles? Is this solely for the home charging point or is it also a discount off the price of the electric car? If it’s the latter, can this be used on used cars? Sorry for all the questions!
A: This is another way that the government hasn’t made things particularly simple for those looking to buy an electric car. In recent years, they’ve changed the rules for what they will offer.
Starting with home chargers, you are able to apply for a grant for a home charger – as long as it’s a smart charger. It also needs to be fitted by an accredited person to get the grant.
But it also depends where you live – if you’re in the UK the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme gets you up to £350 off the cost of a new home charging point and installing it. However, if you’re in Scotland you can also get an additional grant of up to £250.
When it comes to buying an EV, currently the plug-in car grant is only available on new cars and was reduced to £2,500 earlier this year. You can also only get this discount on cars costing less than £35,000 and that can travel without any emissions for at least 70 miles. Previously, cars up to £50,000 were eligible for up to £3,000 from the government. You can also get it on new electric motorbikes, scooters, and vans.
That said, there is some good news if you are in the market for a new electric vehicle. When the government announced the cuts, most manufacturers came out with their own incentives to match the missing grant money. There are some great offers, with some manufacturers even including free home charging points.
Q: I am really interested in the Citroen Ami, but I understand there is no date yet for a UK release, but would I be able to import one from France? Are they UK road legal?
A: Currently, it doesn’t look like the Ami will come to the UK, but it sounds like Citroen has had a reasonable amount of demand so there is still a chance.
However, yes, importing is an option but since Brexit it’s become more expensive to import a new car from the EU. And technically no, it isn’t road legal in the UK but that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task.
If you were to try and import a used Ami it could save you some cash though. Because they aren’t currently approved for UK roads, you would need to get a certificate of conformity or a mutual recognition certificate if it doesn’t meet requirements for the former.
When you import a new vehicle from elsewhere in the world to the UK, the VAT and duty is still payable. If you buy a vehicle used, usually the VAT has already been paid but you will still need to pay the duty and there may be other fees – plus there’s the shipping costs to consider.
All in all, it’s probably easier to cross your fingers or keep calling Citroen to ask when they’ll be selling them here. If it’s something you seriously want to consider a shipping company may help you deal with jumping through some of the hoops, and pay the VAT and duty so you only have to spend one lump sum with the company.
Q: Hi Rebecca. Do you have any tips on what not to do/say when you’re at the dealership?
A: There are a few things people feel they need to do at a dealership but my advice is that it’s better to just be yourself.
Don’t feel like you need to pretend to be a car expert if you’re not, and if you think you are then less is more. You might think you’re showing the dealer your expertise but usually you’re just selling the car for them by telling them everything you love about it.
There isn’t any reason to be embarrassed if you don’t know something. A great plan of action is to think about what is really important to you when owning a car and make sure you ask or check these things yourself.
There are a few things that will potentially annoy a car dealer if you ask them, but they do this every day with several different people so don’t feel like that makes your questions invalid in some way.
The most important thing to not do is turn up when you can’t afford the car. It’s rare for dealerships to negotiate on price these days, so to go for a test drive or view the car and then announce you want the price slashing won’t win you any favour.
Q: I am going to an independent dealership next week and I was wondering what checks you would recommend doing on a vehicle before deciding whether or not to buy it?
A: There are a few checks I’d do once I knew I wanted a car, but you have to remember I write about car buying and car dealers all the time and that has left me a little jaded and wary. The majority are great but you need to be wary of the few.
When you’re at the dealership, I’d check the tyres first because that can be a major additional cost and a massive safety issue. If you have the registration before you turn up, take a look on the government website for its MOT history. If it’s passed in the last couple of weeks then that’s great news and should give you more faith you’ve chosen a reputable dealership.
Ask the dealer if they’ve done anything to the car since it came into stock and they’ll likely be happy to tell you about the extra work that’s gone into repairing it. If it’s been serviced, ask them what that actually means. There’s a huge difference between an oil change and a dealer who’s replaced the brake pads and more. Don’t penalise them if they haven’t as it may not have needed that in the first place, but it’s worth taking a look. .
I’m sure most people feel self-conscious like me about these, but check everything you think you might need too. For me that means turning on the heaters, the air conditioning or heated seats, whether it’s summer or winter. I’ll turn the radio on and even plug in my phone, depending on the car, or connect to the Bluetooth. Obviously, turn on the engine and take it for a test drive too where you want to think about the steering, braking, hand brake. This is pretty OTT for a modern car but, what can I say, I’m paranoid.
So if you’re sure you want the car, do a HPI check or similar. Most people think this is just about checking the basics of a car but it will also tell you if there’s outstanding finance or if a car has been written off previously. Outstanding finance isn’t always an issue and it may have been paid off but it isn’t showing yet. It’s worth flagging with the dealer though. If you’re paranoid like me, do a V-Check too, which will give you an even more reliable assessment of whether the car has been written off.
Q: Hi. I have around £35,000 to spend on a sports car that I can enjoy on a weekend. I also want something that will go up in value. I’m currently looking at a first-generation Audi R8 V8. Do you have any other ideas of what I should consider and what to look out for when buying?
A: I always come in and ruin the fun, but if you have £35,000 to spend on a sports car then I want to make sure you’ve got the money to spend on fixing it too. Vehicles always come down in value, but some faster than others either because they’re expensive to repair or too many were made.
I am forever looking in this price bracket though, as there are some bargains to be had. I am with you on the Audi R8, and I think this is the one to choose because it’s borderline supercar territory. However, a lot of these cars have been messed about with and wrapped, which can hide all manner of sins.
To save yourself some money, go for the Jaguar F-Type. Ok, you could buy one new for around £60,000 but they’re available on the used market for less than £30,000. If you’re willing to go older, you could also consider a Porsche 911 for well within your budget and if you want to make money that’s a reliable place to put it.
The other option, that I believe will rise in value but you’ll need to sit on it for a while, is a BMW i8. Currently you can get these for £35,000, and you’ll have all of the fun of scissor doors and a car that looks like a concept still but without the crazy running costs. The i8 was at the cusp of performance cars getting hybrid power in 2013, costing nearly £100,000 new then, and it still has a really unique design.
Q: With lockdown restrictions easing as of May 17 what does this look like for dealerships?
A: Like all other retail, car showrooms were allowed to reopen from April 12, and there won’t be many more changes to how they can operate before – hopefully – the end of social distancing later in the year.
In fact, many dealerships have said that customers haven’t realised they are once again open for business in a more ‘normal’ way.
However, just because the government has changed its stance on these things, it doesn’t mean you should expect car dealers to welcome you with open arms. Many have made the decision to continue operating on an appointment only basis, and some may not have reopened at all and decided to continue solely online. Make sure to give them a call first and find out when you can visit, if you want to.
When you arrive you’ll also need to continue to observe social distancing and wear face coverings but you will be able to do a lot of the process as normal – but with a plastic screen likely down the sales desk.
For example, test drives are now possible once again with many car dealerships offering solo trips for customers to try out the car. However, salespeople are allowed to sit in the car with you again wearing a face covering so you may not get that option.
You might also find that the paperwork side of things has been reduced but don’t let that put you off. Like many businesses, car dealerships and finance companies have worked on new ways to make the process of buying and selling a car safer in a contactless way.
Many dealerships have made it possible to reserve or buy completely online. While this is great if you want to do so, don’t risk missing out on a car by thinking you can just turn up. Put in a call to the dealer at least to show your interest because vehicles are selling fast in today’s market and just turning up will likely have you on the back foot.
Q: I want to buy a VW Tiguan ASAP.
My budget is £14K but it seems like I need at least £16/17K.
Can you tell me how many different variants there are to choose from, keeping in mind that I want an automatic and diesel car, about 3-4 years old? Also which is the best variant to buy?
I want the road tax to be as low as possible and ideally for it to return 60mpg, is this possible?
I see that the semi-automatic is a seven-speed gearbox, and comes with a Euro 6 engine. However, does the fully automatic 6 speed gearbox come with a Euro 6 engine?
Which model should I go for, semi-automatic or fully automatic?
A: If a Tiguan is what you want, then there are certainly some options within your price range but you’ll find you have more choice if you look for a slightly older model. However, that first-generation of the Tiguan isn’t held in particularly high regard for reliability and you’ll notice a large difference in the most recent generation.<
Looking at a Tiguan from 2016, you’ll find all specification levels feature tech like sat-nav. It will depend what else you want from the car, and if you’re like me then the high-spec R-Line with heated seats will be a top choice, but something like SE Nav will cover off most creature comforts for a reasonable price.
You’ll find all of these cars are Euro 6 compliant too, but I would add that if you’re looking for a real-world 60mpg you’re unlikely to get it with a Tiguan unless most of your driving is on the motorway. Even then, it’ll be at a push. Most reports put them at around 45mpg for a combined cycle for this age of vehicle and while with careful driving I’m sure you could improve this, I’d prepare for the worst if you need to keep within a monthly fuel budget.
To your question about the seven-speed versus six-speed automatic, it’s so rare to come across the fully-automatic as they were only made for a limited time that it’s not something I’d worry about. The semi-automatic is what’s called DSG and it’s the superior option.
Without wanting to sound negative, you might want to rethink your options. If you really want a Tiguan, it will be doable within your price range but it probably won’t be the vehicle you want. However, if you chose something from the VW family – such as the Skoda Kodiaq or Seat Ateca – you’d get a much more modern car within your budget. Alternatively, within your budget a two to three-year old Nissan Qashqai would certainly be in reach with plenty of bells and whistles.
Q: On the day of buying the car – do I need insurance the moment I drive off the forecourt?
A: This is a definite yes. However, in this new way of buying cars online there are a few different options you may want to consider. If you’re unsure you’ll love the car and you’re buying with a 14 day test drive in mind, you will still need to organise insurance. You may want to consider temporary insurance cover just for that period to avoid fees for cancelling a policy later if you decide the car isn’t for you.
But if you think there’s a good chance you’ll love the car and just want to give it a go, it is usually cheaper to take out an annual policy and if you do decide to choose something else you should be able to switch cars on the policy, but likely with a fee.
If you’ve decided to have the car delivered to your home and you have driveway space. This does give you the option to put this off until you’ve had a chance to sit in the car. However, as soon as you put the car on the road it legally needs to be taxed and insured.
Q: Do I need a valid driving license to buy a car? What other documents would I need as a buyer?
A: This is an answer in two halves because technically no you don’t need to have a valid driving license to buy the car, but you will need it for some other parts of the purchase. If you’re a learner driver, for example, you might want to buy a car that you will eventually learn to drive in. Or perhaps you’re a parent that doesn’t drive but you could still purchase a vehicle for your young adult driver to use when they do pass.
The driving license isn’t vital but you are going to need some form of identification for the seller to check you are who you say, and you’re going to need it for your insurance to drive the car away. These days this can be easily sorted over the phone or in the internet using your mobile, but it’s worth doing some research beforehand.
It’s more about the documents you leave with as the buyer. The seller should give you the V5’s new registered keeper slip, which is proof you’re the new keeper should you get stopped before the actual new V5C document arrives. The V5 form will ask for your driving license number but this is optional. You can also do this online now and it will email you a copy.
You should also try and get whatever service history, general paperwork, spare keys and locking wheel nuts that are available. If you’re buying privately these things can be easily forgotten and a pain to go back for.
Q: Is asking for money off the price rude? I always feel a bit scared to negotiate on a price when viewing a car, but is this expected at dealerships and is there a realistic percentage off the price to ask – without being seen as rude or time-wasting?
A: Buying a car – particularly from a car dealer – is actually a lot easier than people think.
It’s a bit like shopping for a new phone, microwave, or toaster. When you show up at a shop you might know everything about a product but often we have questions, and luckily there’s an expert there to help you out.
Most car dealers do put a lot of consideration into pricing their cars and have been doing so for years, so that they’re not too high or too low. If you’re walking into a car dealership worrying that you need to cut them on the price, that really isn’t true. If you want to go in armed with some pricing knowledge, though, there are a few places to start.
The easiest thing to relate used car prices to is houses, and like these car prices change with the market. Search on Motors.co.uk for the car you want and consider why some are cheaper than others.
If cars are selling before you can even get in touch with the dealers, you need to be prepared to pay the asking price or likely be told to jog on. You’ll find there is probably hundreds of pounds between some examples of the same car but – back to those houses – if it’s a bit of a fixer-upper it’s not going to be worth as much as one with a brand new kitchen – and the same can be said for cars.
That’s not to say you can’t negotiate, but going in armed with this knowledge will help you. If you think a car is genuinely overpriced, then telling the dealer what you’re prepared to pay and seeing if you can meet in the middle is fine. If a car has been on the market for a while, the seller might be willing to do a deal to move it on. That said, asking for hundreds or even thousands off the price for no good reason isn’t going to win you any favour.
For more on paying the right price for a car please check out the Motors.co.uk Vehicle Price Guide
Q: Do used cars come with warranties?
A: Used cars don’t automatically come with warranties, but something called the Consumer Rights Act 2015 does offer some extra protection for the first 30 days. If something does go wrong, you need to tell the dealer who sold it to you as they have the option to fix it for free first. If you take it to another garage and demand the dealer pays for that work later, you might find you are footing the bill.
If you buy privately, you won’t be afforded any of these benefits. However, if you buy from a dealer you will often find there is some sort of warranty included. If you’re considering two cars and one has a longer warranty included, there’s value in that. Don’t take it as a given though as ‘free warranty included’ might not mean more than a couple of months while others can be up to a year.
It’s also possible to buy a used car warranty for your car either from the dealer or a warranty company. It’s important to check what is covered under warranty, and what are the common faults for your new car, as you might not be covered for some likely outcomes.
Rebecca has been writing about cars since 2014, having been a car fan from a young age with a series of unusual as daily drivers or static additions on the driveway. She transferred this passion for buying, selling and sort of maintaining into a career, specialising in cars of all ages. She’s written for consumer publications such as Auto Express and Car Buyer and trade titles including Car Dealer and Motor Pro. Now she can often be found writing for Classic Car Buyer and Car Mechanic about the trials and tribulations of car auctions.
July 16, 2021