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There are a growing number of firms geared solely to selling cars at internet prices, since they dont have the expense of a forecourt or dealership to pay for. Switchcar.co.uk and Autoquake.com both aim to entice buyers by showing up to 50 detailed pictures of each car, and are honest about its condition.

Sometimes the cars are sold on behalf of fleet or lease companies, so auction fees and dealer profits dont get added to the cost. Small repairs often arent done, too, so their cost isnt passed on to buyers but if you do want these jobs done later, youll have to foot the bill, and at full retail (rather than trade) prices.

There are risks you cant test drive cars (we always recommend test driving first), but if you know what you want, and are happy to place a deposit online, it can be a cheap way to buy a used car. The law compels dealers to give you seven days to hand the car back if youre not happy with it (see panel on the right).

Autoquakes CEO, Gary Hobson, believes this approach is why more people are choosing to buy used cars online without seeing them first. In the past year, the firms sales have increased seven-fold. Our website automates much of the process and removes the need for a traditional salesperson. We process cars efficiently, which brings us huge savings that we can pass on directly to the customer, says Hobson.

What Car? says
Buying a used car over the internet can be a great way to save money if you know what you want. You are open to risk by not being able to have a test drive, but youll be quids-in when you collect your car.