Buying a new car

By Joe Marczynski

Find out how to buy a new car for the fairest price, including the best time to buy and figuring out the perfect type.

Buying a new car is a rite of passage for many of us, but when the time comes, you need to be making smart decisions. After all, you’re going to be forking out thousands, so investing your money in the right way, and on the right car, is crucial.

Read on for our definitive guide on how to buy a new car.

The best time to buy a new car

If a new car is 100% what you’re after, there are ways to make the hit on your bank balance a tad less drastic:

Shop out of season

Consider buying a new car like buying a new winter coat.

If you head to the shops in December, while the selection might be great, the prices will be high. However, if you go looking for that warm, cosy jacket in the height of summer, while everyone else is buying shorts and t-shirts, you’ll be overwhelmed with great deals and some seriously slashed prices.

Buying a new car is much the same.

Just as the popularity of convertibles and soft-tops shoots up as the sun starts making an appearance, four-wheel-drives do the same when the weather starts to take a turn. This means that getting the best deal on these cars at the time of the year when they’re the most popular is going to be way harder.

So, if you have your heart set on a car particular type of vehicle, shop out of season. Not only will there be less competition for the car you’re after, the salesperson will be fully aware of this and may haggle accordingly.

Be tuned into sales quarters

The vast majority of car garages and showrooms have sales targets to meet, and so do the salespeople. While this can vary, yearly quarters are a good rule of thumb for finding good deals, so that’s the end of March, July, September and December.

At these points in the year, not only will the managers of the garage need to meet their overall targets, the staff themselves might be competing for bonuses. Tap into this need to shift cars fast by shopping for your new car then.

Bide your time

If you have your eye on a particular make and model of car, do some research as to when the next updated version will be released. This might be a whole new model, or simply an upgraded version of the one you’re after.

In the weeks leading up to this, car dealerships may well be needing to clear their stock of the car you want to make room for the new model. So, if you can bide your time and wait for this to happen, you’ll be in a far stronger position as a potential buyer.

On the other hand, if it's a new model you’re wanting, be patient! It is never going to be quite as expensive as it is the day it arrives in the showroom. While you might not be in line for a phenomenal deal, waiting just a few months could serve you well.

The risks

If you’re thinking ‘should I buy a new car’, there are many reasons that the answer is actually a resounding no.

That’s because the minute you climb into a new car and drive it off the forecourt, it drastically reduces in value.

Often, ridiculously so; we’re talking in the thousands, even after just an hour or two’s ownership. From then onwards, it’s value (and therefore what you’ll be able to get for it if you later sell), continues to plummet.

It’s called car depreciation, and in the first three years of ownership, you might be looking at your new car losing nearly 50% of its value. This is a truly huge drop, and for some makes and models there is just no way of getting around it.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that tricks like taking great care of it aesthetically, or keeping your mileage low, will help. It really is as simple as once the car stops being ‘new’, it isn’t worth as much.

Other factors to consider when buying a car

When it comes to the car itself, simply wanting ‘a nice big red one’ isn’t going to hack it. Under the bonnet there are dozens of variables, and each can make a huge impact to the car's value and subsequent price.

Diesel or petrol?

While diesel engines are more economical, cars with these engines are usually more expensive to buy and fill up at the pump. Petrol tends to be cheaper, both in the showroom and at the petrol station.

Manual or automatic?

If changing gears ranges from anywhere between a bit of an inconvenience to a total nightmare for you, perhaps an automatic car would suit you better.

They eliminate this part of driving completely, and because the car is doing the work for you, your journey may be more fuel-efficient. However, this comes at a cost; pretty much all automatics run more expensive than their manual counterparts.

Engine size?

This is a pretty obvious one, but still worth noting. The smaller the engine, the less fuel it will burn. The bigger the engine, the more fuel it will burn.

However, deciding on your engine size also comes down to what you plan to use the car for. If you’re commuting up and down the motorway on a daily basis, for example, a small engine will struggle to keep up and burn extra fuel to compensate. So be sure to match your engine size to your usage plans, or you could end up spending more than necessary in the long run.

How about Hybrid?

Car technology is advancing at an impressive rate, and you can get in on that action by investing in a Hybrid car. They are more expensive to buy, thanks to all the swanky tech inside, but you’ll reap the benefits when it comes to running the car.

Check its CO2

A car’s CO2 emissions will affect the amount of road tax you pay. Simply, the more CO2 it emits (and therefore the more it pollutes the environment), the more you pay.

Big car, little car (cardboard box)

Being wise and looking further down the line is a great idea. When it comes to car insurance, smaller cars typically pay less. You can find out the insurance group rating of the car you have in mind at Thatcham Research.

Picking the right car for the best price

The right car varies from person to person. The best way to discover what is right for you is to carefully break down what it is you must have from a car, and what it is you’d really like from a car.

So, an epic speaker system isn’t a must (although it might be something you want), but a big boot to fit a pram, a bike or a bunch of work tools could well be a must. Draw up your list of needs and wants and then find a car accordingly. It will help you streamline your search, which is invaluable when there is so much choice and so many variables out there. Also, there is no point paying lots extra for gadgets and gizmos that don’t appear on either list.

Do your research

Invest a good few hours in research before you even show up at the showroom. If you’re reading this article, that’s a good start! Turn up with a clear head, a list of requirements and a budget. Just the basics will show the salesperson that you’re a serious buyer who is well-informed and knowledgeable.

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