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Tips and advice

Used car brokers: pros and cons

Used car brokers can offer excellent savings when buying a used car, but there are things to watch out for

Car dealership forecourt

Using a car broker is a popular way to buy a used car and has the potential to provide significant savings over buying directly through a regular dealership. Brokers connect car buyers to manufacturers and car dealers selling used cars, and can point you in the direction of the best deal.

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Here, we’ve listed the pros and cons of going through a used car broker. It won’t always be the best option for you, but you can sometimes get a great deal this way. First, it’s worth clarifying the difference between a used car broker and a used car dealer.

What’s the difference between a car broker and a car dealer?

Put simply, car brokers act as the middleman between a customer and a car dealership. When someone wants to buy a used car, a broker will reach out to multiple dealerships and come back to the customer with the best deal. Different companies operate in slightly different ways, but this principle is true across the vast majority of brokers. 

Car dealerships operate differently, as they stock the cars themselves. By visiting your local dealer, or searching their website, you’ll be limited to the cars in their stock, potentially missing out on a better deal at a different dealership.

Top 10 best used SUVsTop 10 best used SUVs 2024

An individual used car broker will try to source you a bespoke deal by reaching out to dealership contacts and haggling on your behalf. Large car brokerage firms provide customers with an online search tool so they can find the best deal for a specific make and model of used car. They provide results from multiple dealerships across the country in one place, allowing customers to compare prices and pick the deal they’re most happy with. Both brokers will usually receive a commission from the dealership.

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While smaller car brokers won’t stock any cars themselves, some of the largest car brokers operate as both a broker and a dealership.They stock a vast quantity of used cars themselves, but their search tools will show results from other dealerships, too, allowing you to find the best deal.

Pros of using a second-hand car broker

  • Potential to save money: Brokers will search the stock of multiple dealerships in order to provide the best deal, potentially saving you money. Some brokers will also haggle with dealers on your behalf, offering big discounts that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
  • Choice: Brokers offer a wider range of cars than most local dealerships. By searching nationwide, not only will you be more likely to find a good deal, there’s also more of a chance you’ll get the precise make, model and spec you’re after.
  • Relative peace of mind: Buying through a broker should offer reasonable peace of mind – especially compared to buying from a private seller. Always ask what checks have been made to ensure the car’s in good condition. Naturally, you should always go and physically inspect the car yourself before committing to a purchase, but most of these companies are fairly trustworthy.
  • Good part-exchange prices: Brokers will often offer a more enticing part-exchange for your old car than a traditional dealer would. This is partly because these companies have a much bigger customer base, allowing them to fetch the best possible price for cars they’re selling.
  • Other perks: You’ll often get some other perks thrown in with your car, which can include free insurance for a few days – so you can drive away there and then – as well as some other extras to sweeten the deal. You’ll often be able to search beyond the traditional make/model/engine/price parameters. Often, there’ll be specific searches aimed at certain groups of people, such as cars recommended for new drivers.

Cons of buying from a used car broker

  • Same risks as buying any used car: There are always risks when you buy a used car – and they’re not always covered by any warranty that may be supplied. Always be vigilant and inspect cars thoroughly.
  • You may not be offered a test drive: Some brokers might try to sell you a car without test-driving it first. Avoid these. Occasionally, brokers may rely on customers test-driving the car at a dealership before coming to them to buy it. Always test-drive the specific car you want to buy.
  • Scammers posing as brokers: Unfortunately, there’s little regulation of car brokers. Occasionally, you may come across a business that seems utterly legitimate, but that doesn’t meet its end of the bargain. It’s vital to do your research – keep an eye out for consistently poor online reviews.

Looking to buy a used car? Read our top tips for test driving a car...
 

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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