You're leaving it late but there is always time to do yourself a good deal
Aidan Timmons and Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham team up to help readers make the right choice with their next car. Aidan visits dealers all over the country to produce a monthly guidebook on the values of used cars. He is co-editor of Motor Trade Publishers, who supply a car-valuing service to the motor trade, insurance companies and finance houses. Eddie is author of former best-seller 'Clever Car Buying'.
Published 14/10/2015 | 02:30
On the face of it, the thought of buying a new car at this stage of the year looks fanciful. There are only two and a half months left and the prospect of a lovely 161-reg lies enticingly around the corner. Sure you'd be mad to buy?
Yet some people do buy new late on in the year. And we have had a number of queries from people wondering if the bargains being offered in some quarters warrant a re-think on when to buy.
They are in a minority who are more cost-conscious than reg-conscious and can be swayed by a 152-deal at a time when there is no rush and salespeople have more time to deal with your questions on minutiae.
Others have waited for the model they want all year and make the decision to go ahead and take it this year rather than postpone til January.
Admittedly, we are talking tiny numbers now, though the level of new-car registrations last month were surprisingly high.
According to new SIMI figures, overall registrations rose again - to 4,787 (up from 3,899 in September 2014).
So would you be crazy to think about buying now?
We'd never say crazy, but there are substantial reasons for holding on. There is no doubt about that. Why spend your money on something that will be 'a year old' by the time you have a few thousand kilometres on the clock?
But there is a case to be made for considering it too. Let us emphasise from the outset that the circumstances will only suit a relative few, but you may be among them. Or after reading this you might join the ranks.
At this stage, the main reason to think about buying a new car has to be because you, and you alone, want one now.
We know from past experience that some buyers of more expensive, premium, brands are not that bothered by when they take ownership of the car.
They are specific in what they want and will take delivery when it is ready and they are happy with it.
Other people - and this is the key reason as we see it - exploit the fact that dealers can make some eye-watering offers at this time of year.
That can mean maybe a thousand euro of a difference on a family car. Maybe more. It varies tremendously from one marque to another and from one dealer to the next.
There can be quite heavy incentives from distributors to dealers to reach certain targets for the year and for anyone a little behind this is the last-chance saloon.
As well as that, your trade-in, if you have one, is probably worth a few euro more than it will be when it is valued as 'a year older' in January or February.
But, for a moment, let us park the idea of purchasing a brand new car today and instead look at saving even more money by opting for a hire drive.
We dealt with such vehicles previously, but by means of a cogent recap: hire drives are ex-rental cars that come back to the market at greatly discounted prices having been driven around the country by tourists.
Tourism numbers, and consequently hire-drive volumes, have been buoyant this year, so there is a great mix of 151 and 152 registered cars with as little as 5,000 kilometres on the odometer. And this year's hire drives are arriving back a little later than before, so dealers will be keen to convert metal into money as quickly as possible, meaning some tasty deals abound.
De-fleeting occurs throughout the year, but autumn embraces the largest swathes of nearly new cars.
The rest of the time the models are ex-company hire cars that are up to three years old and are out of this equation.
An ex-rental's most attractive attribute is its price. You will save thousands and insulate yourself from the first year's depreciation, so your total cost of vehicle ownership will be less than if you buy new in 2016.
With most dealers having reached their yearly new-car target, their focus necessarily switches to used cars.
Ask any dealer and they will tell you that there is still plenty of business to be transacted between now and the singing of carols.
However, quality used cars are scarce and buyers in this market are not as seasonally sensitive as those in the new car arena.
So, if you have a desirable trade-in you can expect a decent price.
One caveat though; depending on how late you leave it and how sought-after your trade-in is, your car will be treated as though it will be sold in January.
It's a contingency measure that makes sound business sense to the dealer. So, if you want to maximise your own vehicle's value then best to shake hands on a deal promptly.
New-car sales predictions for 2016 have been at the forefront of manufacturers' minds since the end of summer.
They need to ensure that they are adequately stocked to fulfil demand.
An increase of around 20pc on this year's number (probably 125,000 registrations) means that showrooms at the beginning of 2016 are earmarked to be bustling hives of activity.
That also means that whatever scarcity exists in today's used-car market might quickly subside.
Values of used cars (and therefore your trade-in) could reduce in strength compared with today. And boy are values strong.
So, what if the car in which you are interested is not released until 2016?
Or, say it is released already but won't be in more ready supply until January. You can use this to your advantage.
First, if you are dead set on the new model then register your interest in one of the dealer's demonstration models.
Dealers usually get one (and typically it is just a solitary one) car to show to prospective customers.
They don't like selling these cars before more stock arrives as it acts as a "show house" for buyers to get a tangible feel for what they are ordering.
However, if you make a good enough offer, some dealers will let the car go. First up, best dressed, and all that.
If you are apathetic to the idea of having the newest model then there are usually some great deals at this time of the year on the last of the run-out models.
When a car reaches the end of its life, manufacturers conjure enticing deals to attract buyers.
These usually manifest in soon-to-be old models being kitted with extraordinary levels of equipment in the form of "packs" at a fraction of the cumulative cost for each individual extra.
Come January/February, new models launched since the end of summer should be in steady supply and the old model will have been phased out.
Manufacturers tend not to like running both old and new models alongside one another.
If creature comforts and value for money are more alluring than having the brand new model, then get out there now and see what goodies some brands are putting into their cars that are due to be replaced.
Finally, keep an eye out for last-minute low-rate finance deals. PCP deals work on the basis of the car coming back to the market after three years.
If a car is registered in October, then the guaranteed future value is probably lower than, say, a car returning in March.
This makes sense because a car returning in March has the whole year in which to sell but it quickly becomes "another year older" in a matter of a few months when returning in October.
It might be the case that you are attracted out of your PCP deal a little earlier to give the dealer time to prepare your used car and sell it on.
This happens quite a bit in the UK where the PCP market is more mature than our own.
So why is this important? Well, if you decide to buy today then it could transpire that you end up buying again in July in 2018.
That way, you get a good deal now but are not penalised for a car returning late in three years' time.
So maybe thinking about buying now isn't as crazy an idea as it sounds.
But the figures have to work for you. Big time. Otherwise it's 161-here-we-come.