Why used cars are so

compelling

Toyota Auris, 2010, front
Toyota Auris, 2010, side
Toyota Auris, 2010, rear
Toyota Auris, 2010, engine
Toyota Auris, 2010, interior
Toyota Auris, 2010, dashboard centre
Toyota Auris, 2010, rear seats

WITH new car prices skyrocketing and delivery times of many, many months it's little wonder the used car market has taken off as well.

Nationally, approximately three second-hand cars change hands for every new car sold, sometimes it's a higher ratio in densely populated areas where it might be 6:1.

No wonder the used car dealers are rubbing their hands but car buyers might be wringing theirs when the market attracts so much attention, with values going up and criminals swoop for quick profits before disappearing without trace.

Selling a car can be fraught with problems but at least you can hold onto your property until the money is in your bank account. But what do you do when it comes to buying a set of wheels?

We decided to plunge into the second hand market to see what's about.

Like all sensible buyers we set a few markers in the sands of time and narrowed down our requirements regarding size, seats, models and of course price, to which we would add vehicle excise duty, insurance and running costs.

Where do you start? On-line and local papers seem sensible and then it became apparent that sellers were asking a lot but generally not giving much.

Dealers are plentiful and range from the gin palaces with sales staff who spend most of their time on phones or tapping away on keyboards to the garages with a man and a dog straight out of Only Fools and Horses.

How they greet you, engage in light conversation to gauge your gullibility or knowledge and then wander away is remarkably commonplace.

For peace of mind we went to a main dealer who was advertising what seemed like a perfect match to our requirements but was well past the age you might expect them to be stocking.

It had a fully dealer stamped service book since 2010 and MoTs on-line indicating annual mileages, service advisories together with a traceable mileage track.

Further questioning revealed it had the classic one elderly lady owner from new who put it into the main dealer for any work whatsoever and had about 51,525 miles recorded, equivalent to under 4,000 annual miles.

Ok, the price of £5,600 was at the top end but overall and judging by condition with only a few minor bodywork and trim blemishes, immaculate boot and back seat area it looked a genuine car and far better than many 13 year olds, that's cars as well as children.

The car was given a mechanical and cosmetic make-over with new tyres included and a test drive revealed it went as if new, although I noticed a poorly working bonnet release catch.

It's worth pointing out that the insurance quote I obtained was less than extending the three-day cover with the main-dealer's provider.

A month with the car has revealed the bonnet latch still sticking but it has been attended to, I hope, at the main dealer's sister outlet closer to me, and something I missed on that initial inspection and drive, a broken spring in the driver's seat backrest which is poking through the fabric when the seat is occupied. Hopefully that will also be done under the warranty.

When it went in to have the latch checked and fixed, the dealership checked and topped up levels and gave the car a good wash free of charge.

All in all, it has been a good experience buying the 13 year-old second-hand from the main dealer and I have gradually managed to improve the fuel economy from about 39mpg to an average around 42mpg and my passengers regularly comment on its condition and comfort.

So, in conclusion, the buying second-hand experience and carefully chosen car has been impressive and reaffirmed our belief that good dealers are out there if you are prepared to do your homework and not rush into a purchase at a too good to be true price.

£12,995at launch

122bhp 1,598cc 4-cyl petrol, 6sp manual gearbox driving the front wheels

118 mph

10.4sec

31 to 48at launch 42 current average

5

153 g/km

£220

3yrs/62,000 miles

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