Currently reading: James Ruppert on used cars: how to snag a showroom star at a low price
Our used car expert reckons you can buy a near-new showroom model on a Bangernomics budget - but dealers need to be more proactive

Car dealers: on the strength of my recent car-buying attempts, I sometimes wonder if they really want to sell us their fabulous used wares.

That’s right, I’ve been out buying cars and it never ceases to depress me these days. Let’s focus on the big boys. Major dealers have every possible advantage: the facilities, the cars, the warranties and the pot plants to pull off most deals. Even if you are after a motor at the Bangernomics end of things, they should be able to help. Then again, if they are really good, it is possible they might convince you to bundle up your micro-budget into some sort of manageable PCP deal. Sadly, most are not that creative.

Got a used car question for Ruppert? Then email

I just did not find them very proactive. If they don’t have the make or model in stock, they should be making an effort to find it within the dealer group. Or they should make an interesting suggestion about an alternative based on the information I have told them.

Drop in 2

I’ll stop ranting there in case it gets boring. Instead, let’s just look at the kinds of cars I could have bought.

Mercedes-Benz Approved Used is plugging the Mercedes-Benz GLA at the moment. The showrooms are full of them. A 2014 200D AMG Line with 45,000 miles is £17,995. Rather more interesting is an S320 CDi with 76,000 miles up at £9900. It is quite a shock to find something that old at a main Mercedes dealer. It is pricey, but one assumes that it is spot on. More main agents should sell higher-mileage cars like that one, because it proves they are confident in their mature products.

Click here for used Mercedes-Benz GLAs on PistonHeads

Main dealers are chock-full of dealer demonstrators. Some of them will be the genuine, one-careful-salesperson keeper, or possibly ex-hire. Others are minimal-mile pre-registereds. Certainly a Hyundai i10 1.0 is pretty much the perfect town runabout these days and a 2017 example with 5000 miles saves you £2500 on the list, meaning you shell out about £7200.


Read our review

Car review

Merc's first compact crossover might enter at the premium end of the class, but it faces tough competition from established entries like the Nissan Qashqai

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At the prestige end, you’ll find the delivery-mileage-only cars. A brace of BMW 116ds I found at £16,995 may be worthy of your attention. The same goes for little Audis: a 2017 Audi A1 Sport 1.4 TFSI is £14,500.

There is, then, plenty to sell – both fairly old and nearly new, and dealers often have access to stock across a wider group. The main agents should know better and in my experience struggle to put a realistic transportation proposal together. I’ll do a survey of independent dealers and the supermarket sector soon.

So, car manufacturers, if you want a bearded old man to help you sell many more cars to real people, I am sure it would make a great story in your favourite weekly car magazine.

What Ruppert almost bought this week...

Ford Edge - It’s a bit of a lumpen old thing, but the value an Edge offers as a used buy is looking impressive. Build quality is high, the seats are incredibly comfortable, all models get loads of equipment and there’s tons of space. The downside is that you don’t get a third row of seats, but if you’re after a big SUV that only needs to move five, it’s worth a look.

See Ford Edge for sale on PistonHeads

Ford edge new pic

Tales from James Ruppert’s garage: 

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Land Rover Series 3 - Mileage: 128,675: Sound system number two is dead. After the phoenix-like restoration of the Lorry into the perky two-tonne, semi- commercial load-lugger and reliable local errand-runner it used to be, the rather less crucial audio upgrade has been a bit of a let-down. I now realise why I had not bothered with a radio for the past five years.

See Land Rovers for sale on PistonHeads

The man in the shop that supplied the audio kit reckons it could be due to condensation, but it is some distance from anything that drips. The wiring is fine, so I unplugged it, pushed the JVC into the original box and await replacement or refund.

A-Z Bangerpedia:

R is for Rover 75 - It’s a Werther’s Original on wheels; 75 by model name, nature and seemingly the average age of its owners. A 75 is pretty reliable, if not pulse-quickening.

See Rovers for sale on PistonHeads

It’s a baby Bentley you can buy for buttons, but it is a heavy car and seems to have an appetite for front tyres and brake parts. Look for a 1.8 or 1.8T and ask when the head gasket was changed – a job that must be backed up with proper receipts. It commonly fails at 30k miles so most will have been done by now. Otherwise, get your spares from Rimmer Brothers.


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Readers’ questions: 

Question: I really want an Alfa but am worried about reliability. Which one should I go for? Karen Shaw, Reading

Answer: Reliability has historically been an issue with Alfa Romeo, but that could be changing – the brand came fifth in our sister mag What Car?’s 2017 Reliability Survey. So I’d say go for as new a model as possible; a nearly new Giulia should be a good bet.

See Alfa Romeo Giulia for sale on PistonHeads

Readers q alfa

Question: My neighbour has offered me his 1996 BMW 523i for £2k. It’s clean and has always been well maintained. Should I buy it and stash it away? Dev Osman, via email

Answer: Cooking E39s are certainly climbing in value, albeit very slowly for the foreseeable future. It sounds cheap, though, so if you want a nice old bus to waft around in now that’ll appreciate gently, go for it. 

Find used BMW 5 Series saloons on PistonHeads

Question: I fancy a V8-powered Mercedes-AMG. I’ve got £20,000 to spend. Which one would you recommend? Geoff Godfrey, Haverfordwest

Answer: For that money, an early, well-cared-for C63 AMG is within your reach. It should be the safest bet reliability-wise, and lots of fun. The estate would be my preference.

Got a used car question for Ruppert? Then email

Read more 

Land Rover Discovery review 

Mercedes-AMG C63 review 

Alfa Romero Alfa Romeo Giulia review

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fhp111 26 May 2018

Spend a Day in the life of a dealer

I can only reccomed trying to do some work experience in a car sales environment to understand why this is somwhat amusing to read and to understand better the other side of the coin.

Once you understand how low the margins are, and how fussy said used car customer is, you would begin to understand the lack of enthusiasm!

I think people think dealers make thousands per unit when the reality is very, very far from it. Then when the customers start complaining that their 6 year old used car doesn't operate, feel or look like a brand new one and they feel entitled to some sort of remedy, you'll start to understand why if you come accross as that kind of customer before you've bought it, the salesperson might try hard to make sure you don't become a future headache and swerve your custom. I could talk all day about this.....


si73 26 May 2018

fhp111 wrote:

fhp111 wrote:

I can only reccomed trying to do some work experience in a car sales environment to understand why this is somwhat amusing to read and to understand better the other side of the coin.

Once you understand how low the margins are, and how fussy said used car customer is, you would begin to understand the lack of enthusiasm!

I think people think dealers make thousands per unit when the reality is very, very far from it. Then when the customers start complaining that their 6 year old used car doesn't operate, feel or look like a brand new one and they feel entitled to some sort of remedy, you'll start to understand why if you come accross as that kind of customer before you've bought it, the salesperson might try hard to make sure you don't become a future headache and swerve your custom. I could talk all day about this.....


A very cynical view but also probably accurate as customers/general public are a pain no matter what business you are in, problem is though, without them you aren't in business so you really ought to treat them the way you want to be treated. I often find smaller used car places more helpfull and knowledgeable than main dealers for used cars.

aston01 26 May 2018


Not make any margin!? No matter how good l have looked after a car when trading in I always get the bottom book price and then the car you are buying is usually around 10% APR... Bought new last time with 0.89 APR finance - cheaper than buying used!!

Word 27 May 2018

Yes your co

 When looking at part exchanges i to get frustrated by the managements  lack of flexibility when it comes to the condition of your car.   Bottom book or less is what they bid for the cars typically because they are being driven down by the pricing of what the market will say a car is worth.  


I feel there is little science to it but just the phrase “to be competitive we will need to sell the car for bellow retail price” in a race to the bottom where the best car is the cheapest and not the best example being the most expensive. 


But to say your getting ripped ripped off because you’ve always been given bottom book is wrong I think it’s more like the system is wrong because if it was a normal process it would be buy them cheap sell them high but what’s actually happening is I can only sell this car for below retail so the most I can pay for it is this artificially low price but I can understand why you as a customer would think like that.  


As for Apr rates this is a source of income for most dealers standard rate is 11.9% which would generate a lot of commission an there in lies the problem if company wants to they could base there whole business model on seeing cars at the lowest possible price but with highest rate of finance going and sell shed loads of the worst kinda stock at the lowest prices compounding the above problem


similarly if your getting 0% Finance your almost Certainly paying too much for the car your buying as that interest rate is paid for by way of getting a reduced payout on the amount borrowed


moral of the story is look for as low aS is possible circa 5.9% is usually the break even point between gaining or losing something.  Nothing is for free but a good retailer will be happy to make a decent profit selling you a car rather than relying on arranging high interest bareing Finance


If the deal is a manufacturer backed deal then new cars will often be cheaper than buying a 2/3 year old so in many cases new cars are more suitable for people who don’t want to buy the vehicles outright and the finance deals are great for encouraging buyers who have disposable income rather than capital to spend on a car.  

This has obviously proven to be good for the market as a whole as it allows more people to access more expensive better equipped an maybe safer cars than they would normally be able buy but also keeps feeding the young nearly new used car market with plenty of choice and variety.  With substantial savings from the new price which  seems to suit cash buyers better than finance in account of the non supplemented finance deals 


nothing I’m saying is new information but I think the notion that dealers are making huge margins are a real misconceptions that punish the smaller franchise dealers the most almost to the point of extinction and when the expertise and the methodology of a smaller family business goes then there a slippery slope right to the bottom. 

I say support the dealership that best meets your needs on all aspects of car onwership at the fairest price or clearest price.  



After all we are all conditioned to by the latest smartphone every year or so at what ever price they decide a they can get away with and no one asks for a discount.  Despite their margin being huge 

Someone say the icar is coming and who would blame them If they can make us pay £1000 for a telephone that you have to carry around so god how much would you pay for a box that can move you around between town and countries in comfort apeedily and in safety 

keeforelli 27 May 2018

Sales Pro activeness

my concern with many dealerships is that even when you express a clear interest and the money/will to buy it feels like there is a lack of enthusiasm to engage. On many times I have had to do most of the work to find a deal/suggest cars that might work when it really should be the other way around.

 I work in sales though not automotive, and the customer is king; i just dont get this impression with the dealerships i have dealt with in recent years. 

Word 27 May 2018

I don’t understand

i would love to find a bunch of customers like you that know what they want to buy and just would want me to facilitate the transaction


however typically the stumbling block is when it comes round to the cost of the car.  


Most people seem to not want to pay to have a dealership to visit to browse and learn about there car or find out if there is a more cost effective soultion to the needs. 


The very notion that a dealer should make a profit for giving you all of the above and more is horrifying to most people.

granted people should be wary of being ripped of by some unscrupulous dealers selling used cars without a fixed retail price but why should anyone expect to get a “deal” on a new car when it has a very clear and explicit on the road price.   


Why should it be that when buying a new car should you expect to get a discount when the margin is amongst the lowest percentage of any major consumer purchased product going and isn’t it madness that the very retailers that make this small margin in percentage terms have the highest such costs for providing the goods for sale and have such high legal and regulatory costs as well as all the untold aftercare and consumer responsibilities. 


There should be a profit to be made on the purchase of a car it’s the second biggest purchase most people will make and as such who would in all honesty seek out the cheapest vendor for carrying out such an important purchase if it was anything other than a car 


if you were wrongly accused of a crime who would you can to help you.  Would you go to the cheapest solicitor or would you hire the best most specialist in your area or the field of expertise. 


Im not going to make out that dealers are all saints because most aren’t and infact there is an inherit problem with any vendor who requires to give you a price for your asset to buy another asset as it’s largely based on conjecture and hearsay but surely using a reputable firm that have a fair and honest reputation is worth paying the going rate which is no more than 10%  


the manufacturers take a great deal of care in developing cars to the millimetre precision and you trust their calculations with your life and the life’s of the ones you love So why don’t you trust them when they tell you the on the road price of car.  Why would you think it acceptable. To expect a discount when there is so much to the presentation preparation and aftercare of the said vehicle. 


Why is it That buying from the cheapest possible bidder is the preferred route for so many people  when it directly threatens the very existence of reputable vendors with invaluable experience. 


Soea anyone else think like  me that this madness and can’t possibly continue 



Thekrankis 28 May 2018

I haven't even got close to discussing a deal.....

I am still at the "arranging a test drive" or "can I see the actual used car you are trying to sell me" phase..... I feel like a real nuisance..... thats when I even get acknowledged.

I wandered around the local Ford showroom , sat in a few cars, opened and closed the doors etc, not a sniff of interest......

Thekrankis 26 May 2018

Glad it’s not just me....

I have recently sold my Octavia vrs estate and I am trawling the dealers for a replacement.

I am open to new or low mileage recently new. £25k cash burning a hole in my pocket.

You would have thought I had leprosy by the lack of dealer enthusiasm.....

Word 27 May 2018




i find it hard to believe that your unable to find anyone willing to sell you a Skoda VRS except perhaps your budget or your expectation of spec are out of kilter with what is available or that there are physically no cars to be found at any price. 

I work for a dealership in the West of Scotland and I know that I for one wouldn’t let you leave my desk until i sold you a car if A one could be obtained and B that the price you are willing to pay for the car is realistic and being brutal when I say realistic i mean we have a car that’s listed for sale at an average price reflecting a typically spec’d and conditioned car  

the issue I often have is people who say they have £25k burning a hole in there pocket often want a car that the market says is worth £29k  and the chances of getting a similar car for £25k is impossible and so there is no way to compromise   


To to be clear by compromise im not interested in saving my employer an extra £200-300 profit I’m only interested in selling you the easiest way possible which is usually on price therefore if the car is worth £29k and has cost us £27000 then your not going to get that car for £25,000 no matter how nice you are or if there’s a one at another dealer 400 miles away for £25,000 the fact is if there is one at another dealer at that price it’s usually for a very good reason if indeed it’s even a genuine listing cheapest usually means the worst particularly with high performance cars


the advent of the internet has been good and bad the good is that a scrupulous dealer will price their stock to be competitive not only in there local area but also  nationally to ensure they are competitively offering cars for sale   The rational is that auto trader and other portals cost thousands per month so if you price your stock to high then your wasting your time advertising it at all so all our prices are stripped of wiggle room to generate the minimum amount of profit needed to operate a viable and honest business the days of marking cars up at £30,000 when you could accept £25k profitably are thankfully long gone and responsible dealers don’t hide from making £1000 or so profit on a car that’s being prepared and warranted properly I think everyone would agree a margin of around 5% isn’t unreasonable to allow a business to pay for pleasant premises with professional and knowledgable staff that meet most reasonable buyers would expect 


sorry i feel iv went off on different tangents and iv focused in on a partiqular budget as being unrealistic which is obviously a subjective term but if you take anything from this then if the sales staff haven’t been bothering with you then it’s usually because they simply can’t accomdate your specific criteria if they could get you what your after they would be snapping your hand off well at least I would be if I was a Skoda dealer 

now if you wanted a Volkswagen then that would be different lol 


Thekrankis 28 May 2018

If I wanted another Skoda I would be OK

The local Skoda dealers are all pretty good and I have no problems with them.

I have been looking at Mazda CX5, Ford Edge, BMW X2 and Honda CRV.... I may well end up going back to Skoda as these other local dealers are dreadful.