Skip advert
Advertisement

Pre-registered cars: what to look for and how to buy one

We explore the pros and cons of picking a pre-reg car instead of buying a brand new car

Pre-reg guide

There’s no doubting the ‘factory fresh’ appeal of a brand new car, and the thrill of being the first owner to get behind the wheel of an expensive new toy.

When looking around though, and especially if you prefer to visit dealerships instead of shopping online, it can be hard to ignore tempting deals offered by sales staff on cars that are virtually new but already registered.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Franchised dealers regularly buy and register cars themselves because it allows them to meet sales targets imposed by the manufacturer they represent. Meeting those targets means dealers pocket worthwhile cash bonuses from their manufacturer. These bonuses outweigh cash lost on subsequently discounted prices when those same ‘pre-registered’ cars are sold on to customers.

So-called pre-registered cars have long been a feature of the UK car market, and as well as having number plates they’ll often have a few miles on the clock too. For example, it could be they’ve used for sales demonstrations or test drives by potential new owners.

While pre-reg cars can offer significant savings over brand new models – typically you could be looking at between 5-15 per cent off the list price – there are other factors to consider.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

First of all, you need to be happy buying a car that could have quite a few miles on the clock, depending on how long it’s been at the dealership and what is has been used for. The term ‘delivery mileage’ is widely used, but it can mean anything from 2-3 miles on  the clock to as many as 200 miles.

Choosing a pre-reg over a brand-new motor means also you’ll be limited in spec, because dealers tend to order popular versions that they can sell on easily. You’ll also have to be happy that you’re the second registered keeper, after the dealer.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Most importantly perhaps, financing a pre-reg car can often work out more expensive than financing a new one. Further down the page we compare a selection of cars that are identical in almost every sense, bar the fact one is pre-registered by a dealer and one is brand-new, with our examples taken from franchise websites and manufacturer configurators. Meanwhile, read on to find out how a pre-reg on finance could cost you more than buying new.

Is pre-reg cheaper than new?

If you’re buying outright, then pre-reg or nearly new cars are cheaper than new – typically by five to 15 per cent. But if you use finance, then the discounted retail price doesn’t always translate to cheaper monthly payments.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

New cars can be offered with interest rates as low as zero per cent APR, and typically sit at around five per cent. Pre-reg cars usually come with far higher APRs, and when you couple this with the fact that dealers don’t tend to offer deposit contributions with pre-reg cars, it can sometimes be even cheaper to buy brand new.

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, told us: “Finance deals can be more or less attractive depending on different manufacturers and models of cars, regardless of whether the vehicle is new or nearly new.

Advertisement - Article continues below

“We advise consumers to look at what’s on offer and compare both new and nearly new cars to ensure that they find the best deal available and the vehicle most suited to their driving habits and needs.”

What to look out for

When looking at a pre-reg car, research the model in question. If it’s about to be replaced or facelifted, you could use this information to haggle over the price. Also ensure you receive the new keeper supplement section of its V5C logbook, as well as the sales receipt, when the dealer sends off its section of the logbook to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

It’s also a good idea to take out GAP (Guaranteed Asset Protection) insurance if buying nearly new. That’s because if a brand-new car is written off in the first year, insurers will typically pay out its as-new list price – but they will require you to be the first registered keeper before they do this. As you’ll be the second registered keeper of a nearly new car, your insurer will most likely pay out the car’s market value before the accident. A GAP policy will make up any potential shortfall between this amount and what you owe the finance company. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

Also bear in mind that manufacturer warranties start running from the moment a car is registered. This isn’t much of an issue if this was a couple of weeks before you buy the car, but if it’s already missing six months of its guarantee, then this is something to consider.

What about ex-demonstrators?

Lumped in with pre-reg cars are ex-demonstrators, used by dealers to show off certain models to customers. These will have covered more miles than a pre-reg car and may have had a relatively hard life in a short period of time, but they make for attractive deals.

On the other hand, ex-demos can be laden with options and features designed to tempt buyers into upgrading their car when placing an order.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

If you’re considering an ex-demo car, give it a full inspection for any scuffs or wear, inside and out. It’s also a good idea to look out for any damage underneath the car, as well as checking its alloy wheels for signs of kerbing. If there are any issues, point them out to the dealer and use them to haggle the price down, or have it in writing that these defects will be repaired before you collect the car. Be sure to inspect these repairs carefully to ensure a proper job has been carried out.

Case studies

Peugeot 108 1.0 (72) Allure

New: OTR £14,070Pre-reg: OTR £9,490
Period: 48 months (47 monthly payments),10,000 miles per yearPeriod: 48 months (47 monthly payments), 10,000 miles per year
Deposit: £978Deposit: £1,000
APR: 5.9%APR: 9.9%
Deposit contribution: £4,650Deposit contribution: £0
Monthly payments: £145.09Monthly payments: £164.92
Optional final payment: £3,105Optional final payment: £2,970
Total cost over contract: £10,902.23Total cost over contract: £11,721.24

Verdict: These 48-month Peugeot 108 Allure deals perfectly demonstrate why pre-reg isn’t always cheapest. If a buyer were to opt for the pre-reg option over the new one, they could end up paying more for a car that was worth less.

Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost 125 Active 

New: OTR £19,100Pre-reg: OTR £14,500
Period: 37 months (36 monthly payments), 9,000 miles per yearPeriod: 38 months (37 monthly payments), 9,000 miles per year
Deposit: £1,000Deposit: £1,000
APR: 0%APR: 10.36%
Deposit contribution: £0Deposit contribution: £0
Monthly payments: £273.17Monthly payments: £285.26
Optional final payment: £7,266Optional final payment: £6,479
Total cost over contract: £18,100.12Total cost over contract: £17,748.36

Verdict: Pre-reg is the cheaper option here, but only by £350 or so. While the pre-reg deal can be justified on this basis, it would be understandable if you paid the extra few hundred pounds to get behind the wheel of a brand-new Ford Fiesta

Range Rover 3.0 SDV6 Vogue

Range Rover

range rover

New: OTR £83,655Pre-reg: OTR £73,000
Period: 36 months (35 monthly payments), 30,000 miles per yearPeriod: 36 months (35 monthly payments), 30,000 miles per year
Deposit: £7,293Deposit: £7,300
APR: 5.9%APR: 10.9%
Deposit contribution: £3,000Deposit contribution: £4,000
Monthly payments: £1,495.93Monthly payments: £1,089.18
Optional final payment: £30,003Optional final payment: £39,465
Total cost over contract: £89,653.55Total cost over contract: £84,886.30

Verdict: The pre-reg Range Rover sees a £10,000 saving over the list price of a brand-new model, but this translates into a saving of only £4,767.25 over three years. This is equivalent to a 5.7 per cent discount.

Audi A6 45 TFSI quattro Black Ed.

Audi A6 - tracking
New: OTR £47,555Pre-reg: OTR £40,800
Period: 37 months (36 monthly payments), 20,000 miles per yearPeriod: 37 months (36 monthly payments), 20,000 miles per year
Deposit: £5,000Deposit: £5,000
APR: 4.9%APR: 12.9%
Deposit contribution: £6,000Deposit contribution: £0
Monthly payments: £620.45Monthly payments: £883.60
Optional final payment: £18,273.75Optional final payment: £12,169.50
Total cost over contract: £45,609.95
Total cost over contract: £48,979.10
 

Verdict: This Audi A6 is another case where the pre-reg deal sees the buyer paying more for a car that’s worth less. This is a result of the massive APR difference and the pre-reg car’s lack of deposit contribution from the dealer or manufacturer. 

Have you ever bought a pre-registered car? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below and visit our sister site BuyaCar for the latest deals...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

What is an HPI check?
What is an hpi check
Tips & advice

What is an HPI check?

Many adverts will mention that a car is “HPI clear”, but what is an HPI check and should you get one on the car you're buying?
20 May 2024
Buying a used car: your complete guide
Classifieds
Tips & advice

Buying a used car: your complete guide

Buying a used car from a dealer or privately isn’t always easy. So here is our advice and tips on how to buy your dream second-hand motor
20 May 2024
Car finance explained: a simple guide to paying for your new car
car finance
Tips & advice

Car finance explained: a simple guide to paying for your new car

A comprehensive guide to hire purchase, PCP, contract hire and more, for anyone buying a new car on finance
20 May 2024
Car insurance write-off categories explained: what are Cat N and Cat S cars?
Crashed car
Tips & advice

Car insurance write-off categories explained: what are Cat N and Cat S cars?

Cat S and Cat N insurance write-off classifications replaced the old Cat C and Cat D groups in 2017; but what do they mean and how do they work?
20 May 2024

Most Popular

Cheap EV charging comes to public chargepoints via new ‘Plunge Pricing’ app
Octopus Energy’s Electroverse
News

Cheap EV charging comes to public chargepoints via new ‘Plunge Pricing’ app

Octopus’ ‘Plunge Pricing’ events promise to save electric car drivers an average of £6.50 per charge
17 May 2024
Skoda Scala vs Citroen C4 2024 twin test: which is the best-value family hatchback?
Skoda Scala and Citroen C4 - front tracking
Car group tests

Skoda Scala vs Citroen C4 2024 twin test: which is the best-value family hatchback?

The revised Skoda Scala takes on Citroen’s C4 in the battle to be the best-value family hatchback
18 May 2024
Car Deal of the Day: Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Electric at an unbeatable £201 a month
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer front cornering
News

Car Deal of the Day: Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Electric at an unbeatable £201 a month

Our Deal of the Day selection for 18 May will appeal to those who want an all-electric family car that’s not a SUV
18 May 2024