Stick or twist? Dilemma for potential car-buyers as they weigh up their options

On the face of it, the increase in the number of new-car registrations so far this year bodes well for anyone looking to buy a used vehicle.

hat is because there should be a larger number of trade-ins for sale.

The “trickle down” effect should also, ordinarily, mean older cars become less expensive.

But the continuing decline in used-import registrations looks like it will offset much of the benefits of greater trade-in volumes and, as of now, means there is little chance of a major fall in second-hand values or numbers overall.

This shortage of good used cars means demand will likely continue to outstrip supply for the foreseeable future.

Remember, however, that not all marques are feeling the pinch of new-car supply so there is still every reason to shop around and identify where there are likely to be greater volumes of trade-ins.

And the level of import, while falling for some time, may pick up and bring a bit more balance to the market. 

It is early days yet and anything can happen, but it looks like many motorists will have to bide their time and hope things loosen up a bit over the coming months – or decide to tax the car for another year maybe.

That could mean the average age of cars on the road will continue to rise.

And that, combined with long waits for NCT tests, spells every danger – as outlined extensively here last week – that a higher proportion of vehicles will be less than roadworthy.

If you are going to hold on for however long it takes to get a car, above all, make sure your car is safe.

And if you are selling it privately, don’t put others’ lives at risk.

Do the decent thing and sell it in a roadworthy condition. 

By the same token, if you are looking to buy, make sure the car has been regularly serviced.

If there are any gaps you need to be wary. You need to ask why.

If you feel you are not getting a straight answer, I would urge you to walk away, no matter how tempting the deal.

That is why buying from a reliable dealer makes so much more sense than buying privately – you get a car warranty and have comeback rights should something go wrong.

Buying privately gives you little overall protection.

I know that has all been well documented, but it is surprising how quickly your head can be turned when a potential solitary “bargain” comes into view.

I was with someone buying a car recently and the vehicle was bought without even being driven. The inside was barely glimpsed.

I never thought I would see the day, but such was the urgency of the situation the only thing that mattered was that there was a car available and the price was not exorbitant.

In fairness, the model had a history of reliability and came with a substantial warranty.

But it just goes to show how little heed is taken of pre-buy caution when the heat is on.

By heat I mean, if you do not buy it there and then, someone else almost certainly will. 

The fear of losing out at this time of scarcity, and the prospect of having to chase down a similar motor elsewhere, can be overwhelming when you badly need a car and do not have that much time for traipsing around.

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