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Avoid risk and be an informed car buyer

Buying a new or used car can prove an expensive education if you don't do your homework before closing the deal. Not only might you end up with a lemon, but you might also pay way over the odds for your car finance. So, make sure you follow these informal tips before you launch yourself into the market, or fall in love with that 'must-have' motor. First, don't aim for something that you can't afford.

Make sure you remain realistic about how much you can easily repay each month, and remember to include the costs of maintenance and running your vehicle in your calculations. It may be tempting to think you can extend yourself to the limit in your quest for a bigger, faster or more luxurious car, but before you do think very carefully about whether you really can afford it. Be knowledgeable about the makes and models that you are thinking of buying. Research current vehicle values on the web, so that you can negotiate with some degree of confidence. Avoid being overcharged by knowing exactly what the car you desire is worth. Glass's Guide is a good start as it gives benchmark values for a huge range of vehicles, which will be handy if you are hoping to offer a vehicle in part exchange.

Also, go a bit further with your research especially if you are interested in particular models. As well as knowing their current worth make sure you are aware of any current mechanical issues, such as at what mileage the car would need major work, and whether it has any inherent defects. Unless you are extremely lucky and have cash burning a hole in your pocket, you will also need to consider arranging car finance if you're in the market for a new or used vehicle. Financing a car purchase can be a long-drawn out affair if you go down the high street banks route, but most used car supermarkets now offer their own car finance, which tends to be processed quickly, and everything is done from the one location - making these types of car dealerships an ideal one-stop solution. However, it is best to get some price comparisons rather than accept the first offer, but if you shop around for finance make sure that you only request quotes and do not make applications for credit. That is because every loan application impacts negatively upon your credit score.

The more applications you make the less chance you will get the deal you want.

Adam Singleton is an online, freelance journalist and keen gardener. He lives in Scotland with his two dogs.

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