Buying pre-registered … What to look out for.


Buying a pre-registered or ex-demo car could save you thousands of pounds

If you’re keen to save money when buying a new car, it might be worth considering one that’s pre-registered or an ex-demonstration model.

A pre-registered car is a brand new car that already has one registered owner, usually a dealer. Car dealers do this to artificially boost sales figures in order to hit targets set by manufacturers – while the pre-registered cars then get sold at a discount.

The profit a dealer can make on selling a car is usually very small, which makes pre-registering cars worthwhile because the bonus they receive from a manufacturer for hitting targets more than covers the money they lose through discounts. You as the customer can benefit from this by getting what is essentially a brand new car for much less money than usual.

Ex-demonstration cars are pre-registered but have been used by dealers to show off the car to customers during test drives. They should be even cheaper, as they will have done more miles and are subject to more wear and tear than pre-registered cars that have just sat in the showroom or on the forecourt.

While the discounts can be attractive, a pre-registered or ex-demo car won’t be for everyone, so read our guide below for all the info.

Pre-registered cars: what to look for

Discounts on pre-registered cars vary wildly from 10% up to as much as 70% depending on the model in question and how desperate the dealer is to move the car on.

It’s important that you check the mileage of the car; it should only have ‘delivery miles’ on it – 200 miles at the very most. The car shouldn’t be more than six months old and you can check this by looking at the build date, which is usually on a plate inside the driver’s door.

Pre-registered cars: disadvantages

There are drawbacks to pre-registered cars, which is partly why they’re discounted. For example, having two registered owners on the car’s logbook (also known as the V5C certificate), rather than one, may affect the value of the car when you come to sell it. Another is that the warranty of the car starts when the car is registered, so you will lose a few weeks’ or months’ cover.

Buying a pre-registered car may also affect your car insurance if you have a policy that would ordinarily replace your car with a new one (in the first 12 months of ownership in the case of a big accident). As this ‘new for old’ clause is usually only available to the first registered owner of the car, you won’t be eligible if you buy a pre-registered car. Instead, your insurers would offer you their valuation of the car, which is likely to be significantly less than it would cost to buy the car again new.

Make sure you get the V5C certificate

Brokers will often offer pre-registered cars at a discount and you should be especially careful in these cases – as some brokers have been known to supply cars without registering them to their new owners until months later. This is illegal and you could be prosecuted for having a car that is not registered in your name.

If you do buy a pre-registered car, whether you get it via a dealer or a broker, always make sure you are given the V5C certificate so that the car is registered in your name from the day you receive it. Similarly, make sure you get a sales receipt and an invoice, as they prove you are the legal owner.

Buying a car from a broker
Do some basic research

Once you’ve decided which car you are interested in buying, try to find out whether there is a new model due. You want to be sure that the dealer isn’t selling you a slightly older version of a model that’s been recently updated, or one that is about to be replaced by an all-new version. Even if you’re happy to have a model that has been superseded since it was registered, it’s worth knowing this is what you’re being offered so that you can haggle accordingly.

Other things to consider are that your choices on specification will be restricted if you buy a pre-registered car. Unlike buying a brand new car, where you can specify the exact engine, colour and equipment you want, pre-registered cars have already been built and you will have to decide whether it is close enough to your ideal specification. The flip side, of course, is that you won’t have to wait for the car to be built and delivered; it’s already at the dealer’s so you may be able to drive it away the same day.

Ex-demo cars: what to look for

Ex-demo cars are likely to have more miles on the clock than a lot of other pre-registered cars, and if you see one that you’d be interested in buying, it’s worth haggling on price. Make sure to thoroughly inspect the car for things like scratches or marks on the paintwork, and check the interior for scuffs and damage caused by dealership staff and their customers. The mileage might be higher than on some pre-reg cars but the car is likely to be reasonably well-equipped; dealers like to take customers out in cars with plenty of optional equipment to make the car as appealing as possible.

Overall, a pre-registered car can be a great bargain but it’s important to be aware of the drawbacks. Always remember to haggle as much as you feel comfortable, and make sure to get the V5C certificate, receipt and invoice to ensure everything is legally correct.

Read more: Buying a pre-registered car: Top tips | Carbuyer
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