How to buy a car from a used car dealer – top tips from TV’s Wheeler Dealer Mike Brewer

Time 1 year ago

Car Dealer Magazine Used Car Awards host Mike Brewer gives his advice on buying a used car from a car dealer.

The Wheeler Dealer star – seen above talking about his used car business and the awards – has bought and sold thousands of cars both on his international TV show and via his car dealerships.

Here he gives his inside line on how to get the best deal in a post designed to both inform consumers and entertain car dealers, as the compare Brewer’s advice to experiences of their own.


Here’s what Mike has to say…

Buying from a dealer is still a mainstay option when purchasing a car.

And, being the original Wheeler Dealer, I’ve learnt some tips and tricks along the way on how to get the very best deal when trying to bag yourself a new motor. 

So, sit back, relax and join Brewer’s School of Buying…

Research the car

It may seem trivial, but you need to research everything you can about the car you’re looking at.

Knowledge is power when it comes to buying from a dealer, and making sure you know everything about a certain model can make all the difference when it comes to picking one up.

Often people walk into my showrooms and know more than my sales team, and that’s a good thing for the buyer! 

Be choosy too. Pick a colour, spec and engine and stick with that. It’ll put you in a far stronger position with a dealer if you know exactly which car you want, as well as all the information about it. 

Remember that dealers usually have a huge stock of used vehicles and access to a nationwide selection of cars.

The former Portsmouth Perrys site, which has been bought by Snows and rebranded

Choosing a dealer – franchised or independent

This is an important decision to make. Franchised dealers get first access to the latest cars and technology, and are therefore potentially better equipped at answering any questions you may have. 

In terms of aftersales and repairs, they have the manufacturer’s support too. They’ll also have a good selection of used vehicles that will have been well maintained in the main dealer servicing department. 

There is, of course, the option to buy from an independent dealer too. They might not have the ability to offer you different options of the model you’re looking at, but they will be keen to do a deal and will offer the back-up of a well-established business should things go wrong. 

Remember, you have more rights when buying from a dealer too.

Check them out online

Once you’ve picked the dealer you fancy, look through their online reviews thoroughly. You’ll be able to easily see how well they treat their customers and also how good they are at dealing with aftersales issues. 

You can’t beat good old-fashioned word of mouth either – asking friends, neighbours and relatives about a potential dealership can be useful too.

Pick your purchase time

Believe it or not, you can get a better deal depending on when you buy. Dealers are often pressed to reach quarterly targets, which means the end of March, June, September and December could result in a better deal. 

It’s a small tip, but one that could potentially see you saving thousands of pounds off a vehicle if the purchase is timed right. 

Dealing with salespeople

When you step into a dealership, you’ll very soon be approached by a salesperson (well, at least you’d hope). Remain pleasant, but don’t forget why you’re there – to buy a car. 

Many dealers will look to gather information you let slip while chatting, so keep your information close. Stay pleasant and remain relaxed – it’s easy to make a bad decision or be talked into a certain model you didn’t want. 

Remember, buying a car is meant to be fun! It’s also worth remembering that dealers are there to make money, so don’t put in silly offers thousands of pounds under the asking price as it won’t work – they need to make some profit!

Test drive

Once you’ve seen a car you like then it’s time to get behind the wheel. The likelihood is that the salesperson will accompany you in the car, but don’t let that stop you from pressing all of the buttons and getting a real feel for the vehicle in general. 

Ensure that your test route features a range of different corners, roundabouts and road surfaces – and most importantly, check the car works for you.

Check the stock

Ask if there are any nearly-new vehicles available at the dealership. Often featuring delivery miles, these can be cheaper than a conventional used car, securing you a nearly-new motor for a fraction of the price. 

It’s an incredibly easy way to get a great deal on a used car – although you may have to make a slight compromise in terms of colour and specification in order to get your hands on one. 

Run a background check

Yes, it may sound like a tactic used by James Bond, but running a background check on a used car can mean the difference between care-free motoring and a proper headache. 

Although many dealers will provide their own background check, it’s always worth doing your own. Should it flag up any issues, such as an insurance write-off, walk away – it could spell a whole heap of trouble on the horizon. 


You’ve picked the car, taken it out for a test drive and now you’re prepared to sign on the dotted line. But to reiterate, car dealerships are still businesses and designed to make a profit. 

Salespeople will likely offer options such as paint protection or extended warranties and this can bump up the price. Don’t discount them all, though, as some may be useful – but consider them carefully before agreeing to buy.

Cash or finance

There’s a variety of ways to pay at a dealer. They can offer hire purchase, which sees you paying a deposit and repaying the remaining balance over monthly instalments. At the end of the payment term, you’ll own it outright. 

Then there’s personal contract purchase, or PCP. Here, you’ll pay a deposit followed by monthly payments, but at the end you’ll be offered a ‘balloon’ when you can pay off the remainder of the car’s value or return it to the dealer. 

And then there’s personal leasing. This is a good option if you’re planning on frequently changing your car, although you do have to usually stump up three months’ rental in advance, and there’s no option to buy it at the end of the deal. Or you could pay cash!


It’s an age-old process, but haggling remains just as crucial today as it’s always been. Even with used cars there’s always going to be a certain amount of wiggle room. You shouldn’t ever have to pay the full price for a car, and dealers are prepared for this. 

Go in strong and stick to your guns – it’s only the same as they’ll be doing. Remember, if you don’t ask you don’t get, so don’t be afraid to ask for free additions and discounts on servicing plans. The worst they can do is say no!


If you’re buying a used car then a warranty can be a particularly useful thing to have. The dealer will offer you a statutory warranty for a few months, but you may want to think about extending it. Cars are complicated things and can go wrong. 

Look at the terms and conditions before buying, though.

Don’t be scared of walking away

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Remember, there are thousands of used cars available on the market and hundreds of dealerships too. There is always another car, so don’t be scared to walk away if things don’t feel right. 

Don’t be pressured into any deal either – the final decision is entirely yours, and if you don’t like the way things are heading, walk straight out of those doors!

Agree or disagree with Mike? Let him know by tweeting @MikeBrewer.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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