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How to get the best deal when buying a car

04 January 2017

The smell of it, its shiny sleekness, the unblemished skin - the prospect of driving off in a car as its first owner never fails to excite even someone who has owned vehicles before.

Whether you are buying your first new car, changing cars because of your changing circumstances or rewarding yourself with the car of your dreams after years of making do, there are a few things you would be wise to do before you splash out.

You’ve likely already made a choice based on what your heart wants. Now it’s time to let the head have some input.

Tips and tricks to drive away happy

The following tips about what to do before you take the plunge on buying a new car will ensure you drive off with a smile on your face:

1. Do your homework

You have to do your due diligence. You may already think you know what you want, but it’s best to be sure. The best choice is an informed choice.

Be honest with yourself about what you are looking for in a car. What are you going to use it for?

What do you need as opposed to want? Is the one you have your heart set on a practical choice?

There is no point, for example, being a keen golfer and buying a car that hasn’t the capacity to carry your clubs.

Think about alternatives. Although you’ve always hankered after a particular vehicle, there might be a better option for a similar price so check out the competition before you make a firm decision.

If you can, find someone who owns a car like the one you are considering and ask them what it’s like to have one.

2. Can you afford it?

There can be huge variations in standard servicing costs for cars. Imported marques and luxury models require hefty outlays just for a regular check under the bonnet.

Petrol prices are rarely out of the news, so if the car you are thinking of parking in your garage is a thirsty beast, make sure you have the means to keep it moving.

Insurance too must be part of the financial equation. And remember, not all insurance is the same … make sure you just don’t buy on price alone. Study the options to make sure you find the insurance that fits your needs.

It would be unfortunate if you saved hard for your dream car only to find you can’t cope with the costs of owning and driving it, so these things are important to know.

If you intend using a lender to pay for the car, it will give you peace of mind to have your finance pre-approved before you do the hard yards negotiating with a seller.

3. Sealing the deal

You’ve done the research, you know what you are prepared to pay and you’ve made up your mind what car you want - time to go and claim your prize.

First off, it pays to shop around. Selling cars is a highly competitive business and it’s almost always a buyer’s market.

Visit several dealers or look at what they offer online, and get an idea of what the price range is.

Let the sales people know you are a serious buyer but you are looking around. Tell them you aren’t going to play one off against the other but you want their best offer and then you’ll compare.

Be realistic about haggling. The dealers have to make some money too. Generally there is more wriggle room on price the more expensive the car is.

Enlist time. Sales people have to meet targets, usually set quarterly or monthly, so a good time to buy is at the end of the month when they are under the pump to make the number. Another good time is on the eve of a new-model release as dealers push hard to clear their showrooms of superseded stock.

4. Save your legs

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do all that yourself, you could employ the services of a car-buying agent.

For a fee they will do all the legwork for you, and negotiate on your behalf for the best deal.

One advantage of that is that it takes emotion and impulse out of the process.

Whatever road you travel towards new-car ownership there is great pleasure at the end of it.

Try before you buy - tips for test driving

The car you want my look great, but does it performance match its beauty?

1. Take it for a drive, and not just a lap around the block. Take it down narrow suburban streets and out on the motorway. How’s the road noise inside the cabin?

2. Is there enough room for you and your activities? If your child is learning cello, can a cello case fit in the boot?

3. Try parking in a shopping centre car park and out on the street.

4. Check how the car responds when you engage the accelerator or brakes. Cars vary significantly in terms of sensitivity, and you want a car that suits your preferences.

5. If you have children, bring them along on the test drive. Their comfort level is important too, and their feedback will be brutally honest.

6. Make sure the view from each of the mirrors is acceptable, and you can see all dashboard gauges.

7. Use all the controls - turn on the air-conditioning, indicators, windscreen wipers, the lights, cruise control - to make sure they are simple to use and accessible while driving.

Article written by Rory Gibson. Repurposed from the original post, Four Things You Must Do Before Buying a Car, on The Courier Mail.