Buying an approved used car

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Visiting a franchised dealership for an approved used car

Walking into a franchised dealer has a distinctly different feel than a private garage.

It’s usually a much posher affair. You can’t get a minute to yourself without being hounded by salesmen, you’ll end up downing a few complimentary beverages, while surrounded by expensive brand new cars.

You might be thinking that you have no business being in there. You can’t afford a brand new car!

Fortunately, car manufacturers know this and offer approved used cars through these franchise dealers.

We’re going to run you through what a franchised dealer is, and the benefits of buying an approved used car!

What is a franchised car dealer?

A franchised car dealer is the only way to buy a new vehicle.

Car manufacturers have agreements with specific franchised car dealers through which to sell their new cars.

While many dealerships come to an exclusivity agreement to only sell their cars (Honda, for instance), you’ll often find multiple manufacturers linked to the same dealer (like Lookers).

How confident should I be?

Approved used is widely considered the safest way to buy a used car and is the next best thing from new.

You can be highly confident in your purchase: the manufacturer backs it, and it’s their reputation on the line if things go wrong. Due to these strict standards, you won’t be buying a car with any hidden faults.

What is an approved used car?

An approved used car is a car that is backed by the manufacturer. It comes with a decent warranty and has pretty high standards of quality control.

Many of these cars are sold from new by the same dealer and traded back in a few years later. As more and more people buy new cars on finance, there are more vehicles traded-in. Good news for young drivers looking for a reliable used car, as there’s usually plenty of great vehicles on offer!

There’s a strict minimum standard required, so junk heaps with 100,000 miles on the odometer aren’t going to be accepted as an approved used car.

An approved used car offers the following:

  • Quality Assurance: There’s usually a 120 point check of the vehicle, where any issues are fixed (including any parts and even paintwork) before being put on sale.
  • A warranty: This will typically be a year and occasionally two. If your car falls within the vehicles original warranty period, and it’s longer (say, a Kia 7 year warranty and the vehicles only three years old), then you’ll keep this. Whatever is the longest! If your car fails and has issues that are not repairable to a good standard, you’ll get a refund or a replacement car.
  • Private History Check: There’s a detailed history check included, guaranteeing that the car doesn’t have a shady past.
  • Insurance perks: Some dealerships may offer you ‘drive away’ insurance cover, so you don’t need to worry about sorting driver insurance before actually buying the car.

Hey did you know?

Market share of fuel types in new cars registered in the UK 2019:

Petrol 66%

Diesel 27%

Alternative fuel 7%

Source: Statista, 2020

How much do the cars cost?

In most cases, approved used is worth the extra money if you can afford it, as it’s likely going to be the most reliable used car you can buy.

As it’s manufacturer approved, the standards for what they’ll sell are much higher than a typical independent dealer. As such, an approved used car is undoubtedly the most expensive type of used car you can buy – but you’re likely getting a more reliable and trustworthy car.

What kind of cars are available?

Manufacturers sell virtually every model on approved used schemes. They’re typically not very old (as they’re less likely to reach the minimum standards). You can usually find a link to franchise dealerships on a manufacturer’s website.

Here’s a few of the most popular:

Approved used Ford
Approved Used Vauxhall
Approved Used Skoda
Approved Used SEAT
Approved Used Volkswagen
Approved Used Nissan
Approved Used Toyota
Approved Used Honda
Approved Used Renualt


What about a part-exchange?

If you have an older car you want to trade-in, you can usually do so – the credit will then go towards your approved used purchase.

Can I take it for a test drive?

Yep, and you definitely should. As long as you have a valid driving licence, you can test drive a car. Many dealerships also require you to be 18 or over – so if you’re 17 and have just passed your test, contact the dealership first to make sure you don’t waste your time.

Inspecting a car before buying

Do I need to check the vehicle?

While the car should be working fine, it’s good practice to do your own checks and see how it feels to drive. If you have no mechanical knowledge (and have no one you can bring who does), it’s worth at least checking the condition of tyres, and any interior or exterior marks. Finding something can be useful in negotiating on a price.

As you have a decent warranty with approved used, rigorously checking the car isn’t as crucial as buying elsewhere – but it can’t hurt.

Dealer providing car finance

Do they provide finance?

Most approved used dealerships will offer two types of finance:

Hire Purchase (HP): This is where you divide the total cost of the car (plus interest) over a few years (usually 2-5). At the end of this period, you own the vehicle.

Personal Contract Purchase (PCP): In a PCP, you pay for the value of the car (plus interest). However, you don’t pay the guaranteed future value of the vehicle, meaning the monthly payments are quite a bit cheaper. At the end of the term, you can pay this residual value (known as the balloon payment), or hand the car back.

For more info, check out our detailed PCP and HP pages in the Car Finance Guide!

Do they service the car?

Most approved used dealerships will service the car before a sale and can service it again in the future. Compared to independent garages, it’s on the expensive side, but you have the advantage of using genuine manufacturer parts. If your car develops any issues during warranty, it’ll (usually) be repaired here.

What are my legal rights?

Approved used offers your best chance of utilising your consumer rights if something goes wrong. It’s relatively rare to have any issues, particularly as you have a solid warranty. To find out precisely what your rights are, consult Citizens Advice on buying used cars.