Buying a pre-registered car

The secret to grabbing a bargain on nearly new cars, without breaking a sweat.


The main reason most drivers avoid buying new cars is the high price tag and quick rates of depreciation.

It’s understandable since some models can lose up to 35% in the first 12 months alone. So, for some it’s a no brainer to go down the used-car route.

However, there’s another way to save money on a nearly-new set of wheels – get your hands on a pre-registered car.

What are pre-registered cars?

A car dealer's success is measured on the number of sales it makes. Like most sales environments, they have targets to meet. 

To make sure these quotas are met, dealerships will sometimes buy cars themselves and register them as sold with the DVLA. These are pre-registered cars. 


As the dealers are technically the first owner on the registration document, these cars are officially classed as ‘secondhand’.This applies even though pre-registered cars may have very low mileage on the clock and may be just several weeks old.  

Most manufactures don’t really care if the car has been bought by a real person, or has been paid for by the dealer.

Pre-registering new cars, and selling them on to customers at a lower price, doesn’t mean dealers are making a loss. Manufacturers’ bonuses usually make up for the difference and can sometimes outweigh the discount buyers get.

When's the best time to buy a pre-registered car?

You’ll have most luck in March and September, as that’s when new number plates come in. These are the two biggest months for dealerships, with a lot of stock ready to be shifted.

These are usually the months with the highest sales targets as well. So, that’s when you’re most likely to find cheap pre-registered cars.

Most dealerships also have monthly and quarterly targets to hit. So if you want to up your chances of bagging a bargain, pay them a visit at the end of the month.

When at the forecourt, always keep your eyes open for cars marked as ‘new’, but already have a number plate and are heavily discounted. Chances are these have been pre-registered.


Are there any drawbacks to buying a pre-registered car?

The main downside of buying a pre-registered car is, even though it’s practically new, it’s regarded as used. It’s because technically, you’re the second owner. So, when you come to sell it on, it’ll have a lower re-sale value.

Another thing to be mindful of is the manufacturer’s warranty. The clock starts ticking the day a car is first registered. So, if a car has spent a few months on the forecourt, it’ll come with a shorter warranty when bought.

If you’re looking to customise the car you want to buy, a pre-registered car won’t be for you. They often come already fitted with optional extras and you won’t be able to pick and customise the spec.

Alternatively, you could search for used cars that are less than a year old and that don’t have many miles on the clock. Search for low-mileage, nearly-new cars.