RAY MASSEY: Get ready to buy a used car

The used car market is booming, with sales booming and more choice than ever.

Nearly two million second-hand cars were sold in the first three months of this year – with the now discontinued Ford Fiesta (80,814 sales), Vauxhall Corsa (66,821) and Ford Focus (60,058) taking the top three, turning out black, gray and blue the most popular colors.

The UK regions with the largest sales were the South East (289,011), the North West (214,168) and the West Midlands (200,102) – and the market continues to accelerate.

Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers’ Association (NFDA), said the first quarter of 2024 saw “remarkable growth”, with the latest official figures showing a 6.5 per cent increase and 1,967,923 sales – the strongest start to a year since before the pandemic in 2019.

While cash-strapped motorists are watching their pennies, many find a well-cared for used car more affordable and cost-effective than a more expensive new model. However, buying a good used car at a fair price can come with pitfalls, so your key word should be ‘buyer beware’. Here are my top tips.

Flying high: The Ford Fiesta was the best-selling used car in the first quarter of the year

Find out what you need

It sounds obvious, but be clear about what you’re looking for: whether it’s a small hatchback for short trips, a long-legged highway cruiser, a family car or a fun and sporty convertible.

Are you a new driver? Then consider vehicles with a low insurance value to keep the premium low. If fuel efficiency is important to you, consider a self-charging gasoline-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or a fully electric vehicle.

Make a checklist

Make a list of desired features and check them off. A big boot? Flexible seating? Room in the back for a growing family? Manual cars are fun to drive, but automatics are more common on newer vehicles.

Set a budget

Affordability is critical, but so is a vehicle’s age and condition, both of which affect resale value.

With a budget of £10,000 you might be able to buy a great little hatchback, or a much older premium SUV. But don’t forget to factor in operating costs and garage repair bills.

Beware of scams

According to consumer champion What Car? fraud on the second-hand market is increasing.

Some involve fake car dealers that appear as persuasive websites to deceive customers. Other fraudsters place fake ads on sites like Facebook Marketplace.

One red flag is a car with a price that seems too good to be true. Telltale signs are also that customers are asked to pay outside the sales platform, or that the ‘seller’ has no idea who you are when you pick up the car.

Trust your instincts and walk away if you feel uncomfortable.

Gerry Anderson inspires Ferrari

Remember the late, great Gerry Anderson of TV’s Thunderbirds and Stingray?

Well, his creations have inspired the impressive new Ferrari V12 supercar, called ’12Cilindri’ – Italian for 12 cylinders – which combines futuristic sci-fi styling with a nod to the company’s classic Daytona grand tourers of the past.

Before the official unveiling in Miami, Florida, I had a preview at Ferrari headquarters in Maranello, Italy.

Expensive: First deliveries of right-hand drive models will arrive this autumn, but don't expect much change from £500,000

Expensive: First deliveries of right-hand drive models will arrive this autumn, but don’t expect much change from £500,000

Here, Ferrari design chief Flavio Manzoni revealed that the car’s inspiration includes elements from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film epic 2001: A Space Odyssey and Anderson’s TV series Space 1999. Manzoni even bought the DVD set!

The two-seater with a speed of 340 km/h, which is available as a coupe or spider with an open roof, has an 830 hp 6.5-liter engine and can go from standstill to 100 km/h in 2.9 seconds and in less than eight seconds to 200 km/h.

First deliveries of right-hand drive models will arrive this autumn, but don’t expect much change from £500,000.