Buying a new car is the second most significant financial investment most of us will ever make.
The trouble is, for most of us it’s something of a Black Art, leading us to wander into the nearest dealership before signing at the bottom of the page without doing any further homework.
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Astonishingly, just under 20% of new car buyers don’t even test drive the car they are buying, and almost 50% spend less than 30 minutes researching and making their decision. This is clearly bonkers.
By following the following four pieces of advice, I can almost guarantee that you can save hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds.
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1. Test drive the car – and its rivals
My first tip is to drive the car you are interested. The actual test drive needs to last at least half-an-hour and needs to cover the sort of roads that you’ll be driving.
Some enlightened car manufacturers will lend you a car for a proper, 24-hour test drive, which should give you plenty of time to make sure that it suits your needs.
You should then invest some time test-driving its competitors – something we list when we review a car, giving you the best-in-class as well as a left-field alternative.
As an example, the Ford Fiesta is a great car, but if you enjoy driving the Renault Clio is even better, while the Suzuki Swift is almost as good to drive and much cheaper to buy.
I’m also guessing that if you’ve always bought an Audi or a VW, you might be delighted to find out that the equivalent Skoda or SEAT is practically the same car under the skin, but a lot cheaper to buy.
If reliability is important to you then it’s worth remembering that Hyundai gives a five-year warranty on its cars, while Kia is confident enough to give a whopping seven-year guarantee and both are leagues ahead of the cars you remember them building a decade ago.
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2. Why buy?
A lot of people don’t even buy a new car outright these days, preferring to use PCP (Personal Contract Purchase, or Personal Contract Plan) or PCH (Personal Contract Hire).
It might seem counter-intuitive, but once you factor in depreciation and interest payments it might make more sense than an outright purchase.
Every case will be different, of course, but it’s worth investigating rather than dismissing outright, even if you’ve got the cash to hand.
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3. Do you really want a new car?
New cars are great. I get a new one to review almost every week and nothing beats the smell, the feel, and the sheer newness of a car that no one has driven before you.
However, in six weeks it’ll smell like a used car, and in six months it’ll look like one. Just driving it off the forecourt will cost you thousands of pounds and after three years it will probably have shed half of its value.
I’m currently madly in love with the new Mazda and I could buy a new one for around £19,000. Or, I could save £3,000 by buying one with fewer than 5,000 miles on the clock and the balance of the warranty still in place. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
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4. Don’t haggle
Seriously, don’t haggle. Car dealers are experts at it and most of us will crumble under the pressure, signing on the dotted line for a series of extras we don’t need on top of the needlessly high purchase price.
Anyway, you don’t need to haggle. Online buying agents can do all the work for you, saving you thousands of pounds into the bargain. carwow has a good reputation, which is why I feel so confident in mentioning it so much in my car reviews, as does Drive the Deal. You simply tell them what car you’re interested in and they will do all the hard work in generating quotes.
What Car? does something similar in giving you a target price to aim for. My 1.5-litre MX-5, for example, has a list price of £18,495 plus £500 for a decent paint colour. What Car? suggests that I’m unlikely to get any discount at all (probably because it’s a new car that is still in high demand), making that pre-owned car look even more inviting.