The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Used Car

So, you’re buying a new-for-you car. It’s an exciting time, but there can be so much to process and with your research taking you across the internet, we thought it’d be helpful to write everything down for you, here.

Before we delve further into this ultimate guide, we want to highlight some of the benefits of purchasing a used car.

Buying a pre-owned vehicle has a clear advantage: it's usually cheaper compared to a brand-new car, and with the lower price tag you might even be able to upgrade to a more luxurious model. The affordability of used cars makes them an excellent choice for first-time drivers, in addition to alleviating some of the anxiety that new drivers often experience, as it provides the reassurance that others have driven it before you.

Another benefit of purchasing a used vehicle is the ability to pay for it in full, although you can be assured that there is still the possibility for a convenient and affordable monthly finance plan when buying used cars.

With Williams you can also reserve your chosen vehicle online with a fully-refundable deposit of just £99.

Find more about our finance options


1. Research Until You’re Confident

*Top tip* Keep an open mind and explore all the possibilities during your research. Don't be too hasty to dismiss any of the numerous choices available when it comes to purchasing your next vehicle.

Ask yourself some questions before diving head on into a new purchase.

1.How Much am I Willing to Spend?

You may already have a budget in mind for the vehicle purchase, but have you taken into consideration running costs? A luxury car often comes with higher-priced replacement parts, while a higher horse-power car needs high performance tyres and brakes etc.

There’s plenty to factor in with your overall budget (like tax and insurance), but with Williams you can expect something a little different with:

  • MOT - Before the test, for example, we’ll give your car a quick inspection and warn you of any potential problems, such as tyres nearing their legal limit that you might want to attend to. Not only could that save you time and money, it will also give you an added sense of security when you drive away with your new MOT Certificate.
  • Servicing - By opting for a service plan when you buy a new or Approved Used vehicle from Williams, you can spread the cost of your servicing across a period of time defined by you. Paying regular monthly amounts, just as you would with your household bills, you can budget effectively for all of your services, meaning no nasty surprise bills to pay.

The service plans available from Williams are all inflation-free and you can pay by direct debit, meaning you don't have to worry about organising a payment every month.

2.How do I Find the Right Car Body Type for me?

Take into consideration your needs as a daily driver before committing to the car. You may want a small city-car like a Fiat 500 but you also have long commutes and children to take into account.

Did you know: The hatchback is the UKs most popular car body type? They are available in a range of sizes, from small run-arounds to larger family-sized cars.

Car Body



Falling into the F-segment, a coupe is a passenger car that primarily comes as a two-door or three-door model.


A saloon (or Sedan in the States) is a large executive car. Most saloons come with five doors in a three-box configuration with separate compartments for the engine, the passengers and the cargo.


Hatchbacks are characterised by their 'two-box' layout, which consists of separate compartments for the engine, cabin, and boot.


An estate car is a medium to a large-sized car which has a two-box design, with the passenger compartment extending over where the boot would be in a saloon.


A convertible has a foldable or retractable roof as either a soft-top or hard-top. Usually just two-doors.


An SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) is a term traditionally used for cars classified as a light truck but used as a family vehicle.

3.How do I Find the Right Engine for me?

Perhaps the best place to start when picking the right engine for your car is understanding the types of engine you can choose from. Consider where you live or work, for example anywhere with Low Emissions Zones (like London) charge a set price per day for non-compliant cars – i.e., cars that don’t meet certain emissions standards.

In London, you can expect to pay £12.50 per day for a non-compliant car like older diesels; electric and hybrid models are exempt from the charge.

Propulsion Type



Diesels are well known for high economy figures and low running costs.


They’re broadly among the most reliable types of cars, and petrol engines are typically cheaper to insure than diesel or hybrid models too.


There are actually three types of hybrid car:

  • Standard - Regular petrol or diesel engine that works alongside a battery pack and an electric motor. The car’s batteries are topped up by recovering regenerative energy lost through braking, or from the engine itself.
  • Plug-in – Battery is larger than the above and can be topped up via a plug.
  • Mild - Use a very small electric motor and battery pack, which are not capable of powering the car on electric power alone like a traditional hybrid.


Electric vehicles are powered by a battery that you charge up. This can be from a three-pin plug, home charger, or fast/rapid charger.

4.What Comforts are Needed, and What are Nice to Have?

One of the benefits of buying a used car, is the fact that you might not have to pay a premium for optional extras. On the other hand, you might not get every extra you’re hoping for – make a list of any extras that are essential, and others which would be nice to have.

Common optional extras include:

  • SatNav
  • Parking sensors
  • Bluetooth
  • Heated Seats
  • High-beam assist
  • Lane assist
  • Keyless entry and start.

Make a Shortlist of Cars with Williams

You’ve conducted your research into the type of car you’d like, now’s the time to narrow down the cars you’d like to look at, potentially test drive and buy.

At Williams, we take pride in offering only the best premium used cars to our customers. Our stock of over 1000 approved-used vehicles are carefully selected from our network of BMW, MINI, Jaguar and Land Rover franchise sites, ensuring that they have a proven history and have undergone thorough inspections by our highly skilled technicians. We don't source our stock from auctions or other external sources, so you can be sure that you're getting a high-quality vehicle.

In addition to our exceptional selection of cars, we also offer a range of services to make your buying experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible. From personalised video tours to extended test drives and finance packages, we're here to help you make the right decision.

We recommend searching for quotes on a comparison site to check how much you’re likely to pay in insurance on a specific day. As previously stated, we conduct thorough inspections of every vehicle on our forecourt, in addition to our own HPI checks to ensure you get the best used-car possible.

You can also check the car’s MOT status online, to see if there is anything untoward in its history.

You’ve Made Your Choice… Now What?

You’ve found the car of your dreams, it’s so close to being yours you can almost smell the familiar new-car scent! But first you have to visit your choice, and see if it’s up to your high standards.

When viewing the car, follow these three essential checkpoints:

  • Overall condition – Look for any obvious scratches, bumps or dents. Are there any signs of poor repair work?
  • Check “under the hood” – Check the oil level on the dipstick (if the car has this option, some have automatic readers). Does the engine show any signs of oil/ water leaks? What about the coolant tank?
  • The electrics – Test the radio and the lights. Also check if the windows work, do they go up and down as they should?

We welcome test drives at Williams, mainly so we can show off how great our approved-used cars are. But it’s also a chance for you to a) check the overall performance of the car and b) see if you feel comfortable driving it.

When test driving the car, follow these points:

  • Does it stop like it’s supposed to? Ensure that the brakes and clutch are functioning effectively and without any issues.
  • Are you comfortable? Make sure you can see clearly out of the windows, and in the mirrors.
  • Are there any noises? Listen out for knocks and rattles, especially from the engine bay.
  • What does the overall drive feel like? If the car veers at all there could be an issue with balancing. Check how the car pulls away from stationary, is it smooth? Is it powerful enough?

And it’s Yours!

You’ve been on the test drive of dreams, and have decided that the car is the one for you. Amazing!

Remember to tax and insure the vehicle before you drive it off the forecourt, and that the V5 logbook has been issued to you (you can do this online) with the correct details. Keep your receipts as proof of purchase, and enjoy your new car!