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Buying a car

Read this before you walk into the dealership

07 October 2020

The car dealership: home of the sharply-suited salesman trying to sell you a car before you can walk out the door. Is it really like this?

Don’t be fooled by the urban myths. You can come out of a car dealership experience scoring a great deal on your new wheels. You just need to put yourself in a strong position and be prepared for the purchase.

Know what you want

Do your research

There’s no point negotiating a car sale without first having a clear picture of what you want. With your research done, you’ll save time and know how much your chosen car model is worth and that it’s just what you need.

Paul Johnston is a Corporate Partners & Motor Dealers specialist at Suncorp Group. In a previous life, he worked at car dealerships — so he understands the process inside and out. He suggests thorough preparation: “Narrow down the choice of vehicle so you don’t get overwhelmed by dozens of makes and models."

Paul advises new buyers, “If you don’t have much experience in buying cars, you can get caught up in the emotion of the experience. A significant percentage of customers buy a different vehicle to what they set out to purchase.”

When it comes to the car salesman stigma, Paul firmly believes that times have changed: “The idea that car salespeople are dodgy has eroded significantly over the last ten years. This stigma can still sit in the customer’s mind, but it isn’t really the case anymore.”

Selling your existing car

If you’re replacing an existing car, think about whether you’ll trade it in or sell it privately, and do your research to work out its value. For a successful trade in, you’ll need to understand the realistic value of your current car. You can find this information online by researching similar makes and models. Keep in mind these are the “asking prices” and not necessarily the selling price. Condition and mileage are key factors in your car’s value.

Understand how long you intend to use your car

You should also consider how long you plan to keep your new car. If you’re likely to have it for more than 5 years, then factors such as build and compliance plate dates are of less importance. Think about annual mileage, too. Do you want to trade in every three years (where resale value becomes more important) or are you planning on keeping the car for its useable lifetime?

Be prepared to walk away

Steve Green, Partner Success Manger at Suncorp Group previously worked in the car industry for over 16 years so he knows a thing or two about the car buying and leasing processes. Working for a major car leasing company, he looked after large corporate and government accounts but he’s also sold cars directly to new buyers.

To help plan your visit to the dealership, Steve has some helpful advice, “The start of a new calendar year through to February and early March are generally good times to buy a new car because the dealership will be trying to clear the previous year’s compliance plate models.” This, and the lure of an increased bonus for the dealer could mean some cash savings without having to haggle as much.

Steve’s advice is to stick to your budget. “You have to be prepared to walk away if the deal doesn’t meet your requirements. Remember that the dealership wants your business, but at the same time, it’s not all about the price,” he said.

Try to keep realistic expectations while playing it a little bit cool. If you’re offered a sale price of $35,000 and you counter at $33,000, it’s best to wait for the dealer to respond before going any higher.

Getting a new car?

Once you’ve got your new wheels, you may want to insure your new car. Suncorp Car Insurance offers several coverage types so you can choose one that suits your needs

Suncorp Third Party Property Damage Car Insurance covers your liability for loss or damage that your car causes to someone else’s vehicle or property. You can also add optional Fire and Theft cover for an additional cost.

Suncorp Comprehensive Car Insurance covers accidental loss or damage to your car from events like flood, theft and collisions, plus more depending on your level or cover.

For terms, conditions, limits and exclusions, please read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement.

Compare Suncorp Car Insurance Policies

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Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. Go to for a copy. The Target Market Determination is also available. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.