Different Ways to Buy a Car: What’s Best For You?

There’s more than one way to buy a car. Brand new or second hand? From a dealership, or from a private seller? Online or offline?

In this post we’ll outline the pros and cons of each approach, to help you decide which is best for you.

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Buying a Brand New car From a Dealership

Walk into a dealership, browse the cars on offer, talk to a salesperson. Think of this as the “old school” way to buy a car – but this is also one of the few ways you can drive the very latest models.


  • If you want to drive a brand new car, this is one of your only options.
  • Salespeople can answer any questions you might have, and you’ll be able to take a test drive, so you can make a highly informed purchase decision.
  • You’ll likely be able to negotiate on extras, so you could end up getting a much better deal than you originally thought.
  • Car dealerships tend to offer a lot of after-sales support, so you’ll always have somewhere to go if you have any questions about performance and maintenance.
  • You might have a choice of financing options.


  • This is almost certainly the most expensive way to buy a new car. Even if you’re not buying a car outright, new cars naturally cost more than older cars.
  • New cars are often subject to production and shipping delays, so you may have to wait months before you can get the car you really want to buy.

Second Hand Cars From a Dealership

Some dealerships only sell used cars. Some will specialise in one particular make, whereas others will allow you to choose from a range of makes and models.


  • You can get a reasonably new car for significantly less than what you’d pay for a brand new car.
  • Experienced and knowledgeable salespeople will be on hand to answer your questions, and you’ll be able to request a test drive.
  • You might have a choice of financing options.
  • You’ll get a wide choice of makes and models and may be able to drive home in a new car the same day.


  • You may not get the same level of after sale support that you’d get buying brand new from a dealership.
  • There may not be much scope for negotiating on prices.
  • Dealerships selling used cars will do their best to ensure the cars they sell are reliable, but they are still used cars. Be sure to check the car’s ownership and service history.

Buying Second Hand From a Private Seller

Look for listings online or in your local paper, then be sure to visit the seller in person so you can make all necessary checks before you commit to a purchase.


  • It will almost always be significantly cheaper to buy a car second hand from a private seller than it would be to buy from a dealership.
  • The seller should be able to give you a detailed summary of the car’s history, and they may also let you take it for a test drive.


  • You’ll get no financing options. Usually, you’ll have no choice but to pay the seller’s price, upfront and in full.
  • You’ll have to sort out all the admin yourself at the point of sale – including car tax and car insurance.
  • Some sellers are unscrupulous. They may not be completely open about the car’s history. Read our guide to the essential questions to ask when buying a second hand car to ensure you cover all necessary bases.

Online or Offline?

There are many benefits to buying a car online. You can easily compare prices on different makes and models, and you can usually also shop around for the most affordable financing options too.

However, it’s a bad idea to buy a car without seeing it in person first. Only through inspecting a car up close can you get a true idea of its condition. Of course, only through taking a test drive can you get an idea of how a car handles, and whether it’s right for you.

Read our full guide to buying a car online.

What are the Finance Options When Buying a Car?

If you are buying a brand new car you will have some options in how you pay for it. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Buying Outright – The most straightforward approach to buying a car, but also the most expensive. Pay the car’s full price upfront, and then it’s yours. If you cannot afford the car’s upfront price, you could take out a personal car loan from a bank or building society. You’ll then have to make monthly repayments on the loan, plus interest. But at least you won’t have to worry about paying off the car.
  • Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) – With this option, you’ll pay a deposit upfront, which can be up to 20% of the car’s value. You’ll then pay a number of monthly payments followed by a final lump sum “balloon payment” at the end of your purchase contract. This is a good option if you intend to switch cars every few years, and it’s also a generally affordable way to drive a newer car.
  • Hire Purchase – As with a PCP, you’ll pay an upfront deposit before repaying the rest of your balance in monthly instalments, plus interest. A major benefit of a hire purchase agreement is that, at the end of your contract, you’ll own the car outright. But as you’ll be paying interest on top of your monthly payments, you’ll end up paying more for the car than it’s worth.
  • Leasing – Sometimes known as personal contract hire. This involves paying a monthly fee to lease a car for an agreed period of time. At the end of this period, you give the car back to the dealer. There are many benefits to this arrangement – you don’t have to pay a deposit, servicing and maintenance are often included in your monthly fees, and you don’t need to worry about your car depreciating in value. But a big downside for some is that you’ll never actually own the car outright.

Don’t Forget Insurance!

No matter how you decide to buy your new car, choose Go Girl for your comprehensive car insurance. We’ll give you the cover you need at a highly competitive price, with a range of optional extras including breakdown cover.

Get a free quote online in minutes.


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