Tuesday 16 January 2018

10 'Musts' for buying new and used cars...

The Volkswagen Golf.
The Volkswagen Golf.
Isolated tyres.
The Kia Optima.
The Mercedes AMG GT.

IT is fair to say that buying a new or used car is less fraught with risk than it was 10 or 20 years ago.

But much still depends on where and what you buy.

A good, registered, dealer is worth anything when buying new and will always represent a far better bet with a private purchase.

The real difference for most people is price. It is understandable that you would be tempted if you think you're saving a thousand or two. By all means shop around for the best quote.

But take factors such as reputation of car and dealer into consideration. You can't put a price on peace of mind.

That is especially the case with buying a secondhand car. I'm aware of one situation only recently where the hundreds of euro spent on a spate of repairs and replacements quickly clawed back the perceived savings on a 'great deal'.

Always remember you have real comeback with a reputable dealer - not to mention that you'll get a guarantee with a used car that can be backed up.

Here are what I think are 10 'musts' - five for new and five for used - to help you steer clear of trouble.

New-car purchases

1 Always take a good look around a dealership. Are there good back-up facilities? Do you know the people involved? There might be a small price difference between one dealership and another but that might be down to facilities and staff. Think hard before buying over the green hills. It's a long journey back if something goes wrong. A good dealer is priceless. By all means shop around, compare and haggle - too many people don't do enough of that. But don't let money be your sole preoccupation when buying. Think ahead and ask which one would you like supporting you if something goes wrong.

2 One of the most encouraging things nowadays is how well some people are informed. Despite that, I believe that a lot of people still find themselves so unsure of what would suit them. I suggest you really work at this because it is so easy to end up with the wrong car for you. I suggest you nail what you need and then tell dealers what you want and ask for price ranges. This involves being clinical in what your everyday driving warrants. Forget the once-a-year drive to Cornwall. Everyday is your prime consideration.

3 Do not be misled by thinking you are getting a great price for your older trade-in. You are dealing with only one figure: how much it is costing you to change. That is: what you have to pay to get into the newer car. Focus totally and completely on that. You would be amazed at the number of people who take it personally when one dealer offers them €500 less for their trade-in than another. The former may be charging them €700 more for the newer car. Remember: Cost of Change. Everything else is superfluous.

4 You start out with €20,000 to spend but realise early in the game you can get a better model, newer and with more equipment for €3,000/€5,000 or so more. Dilemma. Just one question: Can you afford it? There is a real danger of overstretching financially. Watch out for what I call the 'step-up' factor as you think you see better value for a few euro more. Monthly repayments will go up as a result. From, say, €250 a month to €320. Not a lot on first sight but it is €840 a year more. That's €1,500 or so you need to earn before tax. Piled on top of your monthly outgoings, it could be the straw that breaks your back. Or it may not. Err on the side of caution. Make sure you can meet the outlay regardless.

5 If you have a trade-in against a new car, consider selling it separately if it is in genuinely good order or if it is only worth scrapping. Doing so gives you greater bargaining power with the new car because the dealer hasn't to factor in the risk and cost of off-loading it and can do you a far better cash deal on the one you are buying.

Second-hand purchases

1 Don't even sit into it if there isn't a full service record up front. Take no excuses. Absolutely none, no matter how plausible the reasons given. For all you know the car has been 'clocked' and has travelled tens of thousands of miles/kilometres more than it shows.

2 If you are buying privately, especially, get the car completely checked over by someone who really knows - a technician - not someone who thinks he knows. And remember you have weaker consumer protection rights when buying privately.

3 Repairs, parts and labour can be costly items so I always tell people to get as long a warranty as possible even if it means paying more. It is worth it for your peace of mind. Older cars give more trouble. Newer cars can have electrical difficulties because they are so complicated these days. Give yourself an even break. Insist on a minimum of six months. Go longer if you can.

4 If a car has fewer than 12 months to its NCT date I'd be advocating you leave it. Too much of a risk. Obviously if it is 10 years or older it has to be tested every year so my 12-month rule doesn't apply. But it does to others and I'd be afraid of you risking major outlay to get by the NCT.

5 Good second-hand cars are scarce but that doesn't mean you should panic or be panicked into making a decision there and then. I'd say take a couple of days to cool off. Nothing better than to go back and look at the car again and realise it is, or it isn't, as good a deal as you thought. Better to be sorry for not buying than for buying.

Irish Independent

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