Behind a house, a car is the second biggest purchase that a person will make in their life. Whether it's buying a used car or buying a new car, it's good to know some car buying tips and tricks.
So you need to take the offensive and nab that bargain by knowing what to look for and when to buy.
It’s easy to get bamboozled by the sheer number of vehicles and variants on the market. What you need is a new car checklist. Ask yourself some key questions; is the car for commuting? Will I take my kids in the car? Do I need to tow with my car? The more questions you answer, the more cars you can cut from your potential shopping list.
Once you have a framework for your new car, hit the internet. Searching for your new car online can be daunting, but stick to your list and go from there.
If you're shopping in Australia, make sure you're checking out stats and reviews for new cars on Australian-based websites, too. It's easy to click through to an OS page that has the incorrect info about the car you're looking at.
Window-shopping for a car can be fun, but be warned... car dealerships are tailor-made to seduce you into signing up on the spot. It's good to check back seat space and boot space, but don't get sucked into the spiel.
If you really can't trust yourself, take a friend with you!
CHECK IT OUT BEFORE CHECKING OUT
There’s a big difference between test-driving a new car and a used car. A test-drive in a new car is unlikely to rais alarm bells – it's just a way of confirming that this is the right car for you.
This is where your research comes into play. You know that, for example, you want a seven-seat SUV. Can you access those extra seats easily? Do your kids fit properly in there? Have you checked how much (or how little) luggage space is available with the seats in place? Don't get drunk on new-car smell - be objective and honest with yourself.
Make sure you spend a few minutes or more in the driver's seat, too. A flashy multimedia screen is all very well... but is it easy to use? Can you reach the USB ports? Does your drink bottle fit in the bottle holder?
While you're out on your test drive, turn the radio off; you want to drive with your ears as well as your eyes. For example, a performance car is probably going to have a loud exhaust note and lots of tyre noise – see if you can live with it.
Don't restrict your drive to around the block, either. A quick rip up the highway will reveal different handling traits, wind noise and any shortfall in the power stakes.
SEAL THE DEAL
Dealers aren’t the enemy. In fact, most will get great job satisfaction out of pairing their customers with the right car. But neither are they a charity. Car salespeople typically work on commission, often worked out as a percentage of the profit margin. While they want to move the stock, they want it moved at the highest price they can manage
Timing your new car purchase is everything: sales targets for dealers are often monthly or quarterly, so the best time to shop is at least a week out from the end of the quarter. With budget time looming, the dealer might be willing to negotiate on price or throw in some goodies to seal the deal.
Other great times to buy are at the end of the financial year, in the weeks before Christmas, and that quiet week leading up to the end of the calendar year.
Don't, however, think that you'll get a car for half price. Margins on new cars are surprisingly slim; sometimes as little as four percent between the invoice price of a new car and the ticket price. Cheaper vehicles and the big sellers will make the dealership a few hundred dollars at most.
Unless they are selling high-end vehicles (like Ferraris, for example), your average dealer doesn’t make much profit on the actual sale of a new car.
Dealers rely on financing and servicing to make up the shortfall, and so will offer low prices on your trade-in – it’s where they make the majority of their money.
Haggling over an $18,000 hatch isn’t really going to work. You might get the dealer to throw in car mats or metallic paint, but that's about it.
When it comes to the financing, prices and offers vary between dealerships, so be sure to check out bank deals as well. Recent changes to financial regulations mean that finance is now a bit harder to get, so make sure you know how much money they money you're borrowing is going to cost you.
And be absolutely, positively sure before you sign on the dotted line that this is the car for you. While there are 'cooling off' periods built into most deals, make sure you're certain you can afford it, even if things go pear-shaped.
If you have any doubt at all, give yourself time to think. You can always drive a better deal the next day.