Thinking of buying? Here are the do's and don'ts
LET'S presume you are in the market for a new car.
Maybe this July, maybe not. Maybe January. Maybe July of next year.
It can be hard to decide. It is an awful lot of money.
No matter when, however, a few reminders always help.
Do as much research as you can. The web is an obvious source but it will NEVER give you word of mouth on what a dealer is like. A good dealer is worth a lot in peace of mind. I know people who have been absolutely ripped off by a garage. And I know people who swear by theirs. You want the latter.
So put a lot of your time into finding out where you should shop. Chances are if they are reasonably local and long-standing, you will be fairly safe.
Research two or three of them so you can compare car prices, specs, finance deals, trade-in allowances.
And now to the cars.
Ask yourself the hard questions. What do I need from my car? There's nothing wrong with wanting something ultra-practical. Neither is there anything wrong with the latest flashy, smart, powerful coupe. The important thing is to have settled on what you need. There is always the danger that you'll get distracted by something else and spend more than you have budgeted for (or can afford, maybe). It happens.
Of course you are allowed change your mind, but, even allowing for that, keep focused on what your core need is.
We'd all love a Ferrari but that's no good for taking four children to school.
Then, at the end of it all, it comes down to three words: cost of change.
One garage will offer you more for your trade-in. Another will 'knock' more off the new car price. Just ask one question: "What is it costing me to change?" That's it. Compare like with like. It's called the bottom line, and the one that takes least of your money gets your custom.
Work hard, if you have the time, on critical details such as equipment levels, warranty, safety (EuroNCAP stars), and the APR of finance deals, to make sure you are comparing like with like.
Do try out the car for longer than a short test drive. You need to sit in it for as long as you decently can. Only that way will you find out if the seats suit you, or if you can get a good, comfortable, safe driving position. What's rear and side visibility like? What's room in the back like? How easy is it to get in an out of the front? Back? Is the boot-lid too high for you lifting stuff in with your delicate back?
Treat it like a tailor's fitting, only this costs a lot more than a new dress, gown or suit.
But above all, get a feel for the dealership. You will have heard things about it – mostly good, we hope. How have you, not anyone else, felt? Could you come back in a year with a problem and feel you'd be treated well?
You want peace of mind when you buy a car, knowing your dealer will sort out anything that arises. That makes the extra effort worth the while.
Good luck and safe driving.