Tips and Advice

PCP on used cars

We explain the points to consider when choosing a used car personal contract purchase plan

A personal contract purchase plan (PCP) is one of the most popular ways of financing a new car, but what about when buying a pre-owned car?

Many dealers offer PCPs on used cars. While independent dealers typically employ a third-party lender, franchised main-dealer showrooms sometimes offer PCP schemes that come with the manufacturer's backing. The PCP principle is the same whether you buy new or used – but there are some important differences that are well worth knowing.

Used car PCP – monthly payments

A PCP can lead to appealingly small monthly payments. However, while new cars are often sold on long-term PCPs of up to four years, this isn't always an option when you buy used.

Carbuyer's best used small cars

When buying a used car on a PCP, the amount you pay is determined by the cost of the car compared to its value at the end of your payment term. For example, if you choose a three-year (36 month) PCP, you'll pay the cost of the car less its value three years later. At this point, you won't own the car unless you pay a final guaranteed minimum future value (GMFV) payment.

This is determined by the lender and is based on a car's predicted target="_blank">residual value at the end of your payment term. Depending on the age of the car, you may find that longer PCP schemes aren't offered – some lenders have strict upper age limits beyond which a car can't be financed by PCP due to the difficulty in predicting residual values. This means the monthly payment might not be quite as low as you hoped.

Used car PCP – incentives

As with new car purchases, paying a larger initial deposit will help to shrink your monthly payments. However, main-dealer PCP financing on used cars rarely offers the same incentives that new-car buyers enjoy.

New cars are often promoted with attractive PCP finance deals subsided by the manufacturer with a view to increasing sales. This can include 'deposit contributions' that act to increase your initial deposit, or reduced interest rates. Either has the effect of driving down your monthly payment. However, it's rare for used-car buyers to get offers like these.

While car manufacturers have an obvious interest in increasing new car sales, they pay less attention to the number of used cars sold – that's of far more pressing interest to dealer franchise groups. This means used cars rarely benefit from the same promotional budgets as new cars and big purchase incentives are harder to come by.

However, it's worth keeping an eye out for used-car sales events with the offer of a deposit contribution. It's rare to find such an offer in conjunction with a discount, though – dealer profit margins on used cars are often surprisingly slim and further reductions can be tough to negotiate.

Should I buy a used car on PCP?

It's worth remembering that, despite the lower price emblazoned on its windscreen, a nearly new car might not stack up quite so well on a PCP as a brand new model – and it all comes down to the incentives mentioned above.

A three-year PCP on a nearly new car might also be awkward in reality – if the car is several months old when you take possession, it means you'll need to get an MoT test some way ahead of your final monthly payment. On a brand-new car, though, a three-year PCP might not require you to MOT the car or pay for its third yearly service – although you should check the terms of your agreement to be sure.

The biggest advantage of PCP is that it enables you to drive a new car for a low monthly payment, and this advantage decreases with the age of the car. You may find that the lack of promotional incentives and subsidised interest rates mean a PCP on a car that's a few years old actually works out only a little less per month than a brand-new car. The difference may come with the size of the GMFV payment, which will be markedly lower. However, many buyers choose not to make this payment and trade in for another new car instead.

Read our guide on how to budget for a new car

If you plan to change your car regularly and will never make that final GMFV payment, a PCP might suit. However, if your intent is to own the car outright, it might make sense to pay for the car via a hire purchase agreement. This involves the whole cost of the car being broken into monthly instalments, plus any costs, less your initial deposit. Although dealer incentives on HP are hard to come by, some lenders offer low rates of interest – although it's worth comparing this to the cost of a loan from your bank or building society.

And when the time comes to agree a deal, you can find a little extra help from our guide to agreeing a great price.

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