Buying a used car - a High-wire act between availability and price

Did you know that you’re more likely to buy a poorly-kept car if you buy in the summer? Sounds odd, but it is, according to the research, actually quite true. CAP in the UK, which monitors vehicle values, has found that cars for sale in the summer months tend to be in shabbier condition than those earlier in the year.
How on Earth is this possible? Simple, really – it’s the old adage of the early bird getting the worm at work in the real world. Buyers who get out and buy earlier in the year tend to snap up the cream of the second hand crop, while those who delay till later, for whatever reason, are then shopping further down the shelf of quality, so to speak.
“From the used car sold data received at CAP, we have noted that the number of overall cars that are sold in poorer condition tends to increase in the summer months, from May to August” said Derren Martin, Senior Black Book Editor with CAP. “This is as a result of buyers having bought the good quality cars earlier in the year, when supply and demand were good, but the poorer quality ones still need to find a home.”
So, buy earlier in the year and get a better car, then. Easy, right?

buying a used car - Not always as it seems

Ah, not so fast. According to Martin, there’s a twist in the tale… “When these usually older, high mileage, previously unsold cars are added to the used car volumes generated by over 3-years of registration growth, there will almost certainly be some pressure on price. If buyers are prepared to refurbish cars, and can do so cost effectively, then there will undoubtedly be some good value cars for them to purchase over the coming months.”
In other words, the fact that these cars are left unsold, plus the glut of used cars landing in the UK market this summer from all the recent growth seen across the Irish Sea in car sales, will mean that second hand prices will be pushed down a notch or two.

Supply will mean better prices

buying a used carNow, that’s an interesting point for anyone looking to import a car into Ireland from the UK, because the high value of Sterling and the plummet in the value of the Euro is starting to choke off the supply of second hand cars from Britain. Used imports which originate mainly from the UK (GB and Northern Ireland) continue to slide with exchange rates remaining unfavourable. Registrations resulting from used cars imports were down over 27 per cent in May and down 12.6 per cent year to date. This trend continues to compound the stock shortage in the used car market as demand still far exceeds supply in this sector of the market used car prices remain high and bargains are hard to find at home.
A downward pressure on UK used prices could be manna from heaven for Irish buyers, as such changes could, potentially, start to reverse some of the increased cost brought about by changes in the exchange rate. Time to get that ferry ticket booked?
Ah, sadly, it’s a case of not so fast. You see, with downward pressure on prices, you start to see more nefarious tactics at work on the part of the less-than-entirely-legal side of the car trade. By which we mean clocking. We’ve previously found that as many as 15 per cent of all used cars on sale have been clocked, and the alterations in vehicle values can be staggering. Take the odometer back from 90,000-miles to 30,000-miles on, say, a Volkswagen Golf and its value could jump up by as much as 40 per cent. The same mileage haircut pushes the value of an Audi A3 up by 30 per cent or a Range Rover Evoque by 20 per cent. A few clicks of a laptop, in the hands of an unscrupulous clocking expert, and any reduction in price brought about by an excess of second hand supply is quickly wiped out, and then reversed.

To buy or not to buy

buying a used car 3 So, as we come into the summer months, it’s easy to start thinking about updating your car, and the balmy weather makes a trip across the water to do your shopping seem so much more tempting. If you can get around the disastrous exchange rate, or the lack of good second hand stock in Ireland simply pushes you past the point of caring, then a UK-based car shopping expedition is a good option. All we’d say is make sure you do your homework first. Make sure you microscopically inspect the history of any car you’re looking to buy, and take extra care to check for the tell-tale signs of clocking. If a low-mileage looks too good to be true, then it probably is and shiny, worn patches on the steering wheel, or tired and tatty seats will tell a tale of longer miles than the odometer speaks of.
We’re here to back you up every step of the way, though. Get your purchase Motorcheck’d before you sign on the line.