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WHERE TO LOOK

So where to look for cars, well, the printed media is still best for finding cars. Regional and local newspapers derive a major chunk of their income from car advertising, after house ads it's usually their second biggest revenue earned. All regional and local newspapers always carry advertising from all of the dealers in their catchment area, dealers from the largest one make franchise to the smaller lot with just half a dozen cars.

The larger dealers will have display ads every week  listing their entire stock  often with colour photos whereas the genuine private seller and the dealers pretending to be private sellers will have their ads in the pages of classified columns.

If you're car buying you simply can't ignore regional and local newspapers most of which will have pages and pages of cars each week, in fact some now have so many they publish separate motoring sections each week. Ensure that you know which day the local paper appears for many people get on the phone within minutes of publication and that bargain you have just spotted in a 2 day old paper will doubtless have gone already to someone quicker off the mark.

Originally an offshoot of regional and local newspapers are the many weekly car sales newspapers or magazines which are nothing but car adverts with minimal editorial. These are very general with, usually, classification by type - saloons, estates, sports cars etc - although some classify by make and type - with brief descriptions of each car, often a photo, sometimes in colour, a price and a phone number. The market leader in this area now publishes regional editions, well worthwhile as there's little point chasing a bargain in Newcastle when you live in Torquay.

These are very useful for getting a feel for prices as well as they usually have many examples of each vehicle to compare especially more common makes and models of cars. They score less well on more specialised cars which are better found in weekly or monthly motoring magazines.

If, for example, you are seeking a chrome and fins American car there's little likelihood of finding such in your local paper, you need a specialised magazine or a motoring magazine which has a section catering to such tastes and the same applies for classic cars, sports cars or, even, 4x4s all of which niche markets now have specialist magazines devoted to them.

Another worthwhile area of research if you are looking for something very special is to find out if there is an owners club or society who probably publish a magazine for their members. Addresses of such one make and other motoring clubs can usually be found in the backs of specialist magazines or by consulting the "Blue Book", the Motor Sports Year Book, published by the RAC MSA, most libraries have copies.

Before you rush out, paper in hand, to start viewing, check carefully on the phone every car you're interested in, find out as much as you can before viewing, it might run the phone bill up but could save a lot of wasted petrol chasing around to cars that really don't fit your requirements or aren't quite as good as claimed in the glowing small ads.

Right at the very bottom of the market place is the card in the shop window, this really is for cheapens only and unless you are hard pressed, strapped for cash and only looking for a very short term motor, is best avoided. Like the maps of old "here be dragons" the card in the shop window is the swamp from which slither the very worst of the "private sellers", you have been warned. If you actually get a fairly described bargain by this means you have been very, very, lucky.

Abstracted from the book “Buying a Used Car” © G Benge 1997-2007

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