Advice from the experts

It is easy to fall in love with a sporty convertible that can reach 60 miles per hour from standstill in less than six seconds, but it is really the practical choice? Well, not for a family man with a wife, two children and a dog to transport around.

Before buying a used car, take time to consider how the car will be used. Think too about how much money is available to buy the car, as there is little point in shopping around for a second-hand Ferrari with low mileage if the budget is only £6,000.

Car key fob sat next to a calculator and pen

It is a good idea for a buyer to make a list of what he needs and wants from his next car. If a used car has all he needs and most of what he wants, it may be the right choice. Some factors to consider are:

How much space is needed?

A small car may be cheaper to buy, more economical and easier to park, but will not be very comfortable on long journeys if pets and children have to be squashed in.

What will the annual mileage be?

Those covering a lot of miles may want a diesel engine, which gives better fuel economy and is longer lasting, while occasional drivers may prefer a petrol-powered used car, as generally those are cheaper to buy.

How often will the car carry passengers?

The three-door hatchback may look better, but those lifting young children in and out of car seats may be better off with the five-door version. Those less likely to be carrying passengers may find a two-seater sports car is a realistic option.

Will children wreck the interior?

A pretty, cream-coloured interior will not look so good once the children have smudged chocolate and spilt juice all over it, so consider a darker interior that will hide the mess.

Will the car be towing a caravan?

If so, an automatic gearbox will make it easier and make sure the car has a big enough engine to cope with hauling all that extra weight.

Are speed bumps a problem?

Those who dream about driving around town in a low-riding sports car may be forced to think again if living in a built-up area littered with speed bumps.

Will it rain on the parade?

Anyone keen on a convertible may be put off by the lack of sunshine in Britain, but remember it can be fun going topless without the sun, as long as it is dry.

What will it cost to run?

Just because a used car is within budget does not necessarily mean it is affordable, so before parting with hard-earned cash consider running costs such as servicing, repairs, fuel economy, insurance and road tax.

There is a plethora of used cars on the market at any given time, and it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, but the task can be made that bit easier by deciding what type of car is needed before starting out.