10 tips for buying a new car

Keep these tips in mind so you can drive away with a better deal.

It’s sometimes said that car dealers can smell an uninformed customer when they walk in and will start circling them like sharks. Depending on what your local dealership is like, this might only be a slight exaggeration.

You don’t have to be a car enthusiast to be a well-informed, hard-haggling customer. Paying attention to these ten quick tips can make a real difference to your car and your wallet.

  1. Buy a car at the end of the month

Plan your purchase, but don’t sign on the dotted line until near the end of the month. Car dealers operate on monthly sales targets so they’re more amenable to offering discounts and free extras around this time. Car dealers are often hungry for a sale in the last week of any month, so this is a good time to buy.

  • Be serious about safety

ANCAP safety ratings are no joke. These ratings determine how likely an accident is to injure or kill you, and the differences between safe and unsafe cars are enormous.

More importantly, it can also affect the cost of car insurance. If you’re after a more cost-effective drive and you want a safe vehicle, avoid settling for less than a 4- or 5-star ANCAP rating.

  • Do your homework on the car you want

Learn about your chosen car's typical drive-away price before you buy, as well as which extras are tacked on and how much these are really worth. This gives you a baseline against which to haggle and consider “free” extras.

It also lets you determine how much haggling room is left when you’re quoted a price. You probably won’t get a good deal if you don’t take this step and if you do, how would you know?

  • Know the haggling dos and don’ts

  • Do keep your expectations realistic. You probably won’t haggle much off an already-discounted price.
  • Do keep it friendly and polite. Good manners go a lot further and sometimes a deal simply comes down to how much they like you.
  • Do leave your phone number, even if you walk away. They might come back to you with a better offer.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. If they’re not budging, find someone who will.
  • Don’t try low-balling them unless you’re ready to climb back up the price ladder.
  • Make dealers compete with each other

A lot of dealers might turn down an offer without hesitation, but would accept the very same offer when asked to match a competitor’s price. There’s always a better deal out there somewhere and dealers know it. Try to be in touch with more than one dealer before buying and let them compete for your business.

  • Always do a test drive

There’s no substitute for a test drive. If you’re still deciding between different cars or models, test drive them all if possible. Never buy a new car without test driving it first.

  • Beware of unwanted extras

Dealers are always ready to generously throw in extras for free or at cost, to sweeten the deal. Think about the extras you actually want before buying and try to resist walking out with something you didn’t want.

Some of the extras you almost certainly don’t want are an extended warranty, rustproofing and paint protection. A new car already has all of these in some form and these extras are often just a sales trick.

The cost of car insurance changes a lot depending on what you’re driving. Common new cars, even the latest models, are often cheaper to insure than one would expect thanks to the availability of spare parts. Meanwhile, cars that don’t have more recent safety features such as auto braking or traction control, or cars with a poor ANCAP rating, can be considerably more expensive.

  • Check the fuel consumption

Check a car’s fuel consumption with the yellow sticker on the windscreen. This allows you to you to compare efficiency between vehicles and can give you a reasonable idea of what the car's operating costs might be.

  • Make sure all the boxes are ticked before you buy

Check off these tips before buying for better luck finding a deal, but when the pen’s in your hand and the dealer is salivating over your shoulder you should ask yourself whether you have:

  • Understood the terms and conditions. Make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for.
  • Been to multiple dealers. If you haven’t, then you’re almost certainly not getting the value you could be.
  • Know what is and isn’t included. Be certain that you aren’t paying for unwanted extras and that you won’t be missing anything.

Your new car will need CTP insurance, and if you’ll be depending on it you might want to consider comprehensive car insurance instead of one of the more basic options.

Dealers also offer car loans, but with balloon payments in mind it may end up costing you more. If it looks like you’ll be needing a car loan, consider comparing your options before you start your car search.

Image: Shutterstock

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