Before you buy a car

There are a number of questions you need to ask yourself before you buy a car:

  • What will you use it for? 
  • How long do you expect to own it? 
  • Are you looking for reliability? 
  • How many miles do you plan to do? 
  • Are you buying it for practicality, for fun, or perhaps a bit of both? 
  • Do you want something luxurious or thrifty? 
  • How much are you willing to spend (include other costs such as insurance, tax, services and fuel)?
  • What type of model and manufacturer are you leaning towards? 

These questions will influence your decision on what type of car you choose to go for. Consider carefully what style and size of car will suit your needs best. It is important that you buy a car that is practical for your lifestyle.

For example, if you carry sports or music equipment you may need a car with a bigger boot, or of you need to tow a trailer you may need a car with a bigger engine and stronger suspension. If you live in a town or city and you don’t use your car that often, a much smaller car may suit you best. Think about the mileage you are likely to do in the car and take into account ongoing running costs such as fuel, services and tax. 

Where to look

There are loads of new and used cars available on the market, so you have plenty of options.

Look around for cars in:

  • Dealer showrooms
  • Classified ads in magazines and newspapers
  • Ads on notice boards
  • Online trading websites

Shopping around will also tell you the average price for the type of car you want so that you can work out your budget and plan how you will pay for the car

Think about timing

  • Check whether a new model is available for the car that you are thinking about buying. If there is a new model about to be launched, this can affect the price you pay for the car and its later re-sale price. If you visit a dealer at the time of new car sales in January or July, they may also have a good stock of used cars from trade-ins to choose from.
  • Dealers often get bonuses from the smaller manufacturers for selling a certain number of cars a month. So if you walk in at the end of the month and he has not reached his target, he's more likely to do you a deal.

Are you trading in?

  • If you are trading-in your existing car, you need to consider the “cost of changing”, i.e. subtracting the value of your trade-in from the price of a new car.
  • Get to know how much your trade-in is worth by looking at similar models online. Remember that a dealer’s sale value includes profit and refurbishing costs. This value will not be anything like the offers you should expect to receive on your own car.
  • Take your car to three or four used car-dealers currently selling cars similar to yours and see what they will give you for the car.
  • After you've done your research, you will know the lowest and highest sale values for your car. When the dealer asks what you want for your car, have a strategy to get the best price you can for your car.

Tips to get the best value trade-in:

  • If you've kept all the maintenance records on your car, take them with you and ask the dealer if you can get more for your car because you have them.
  • Don't let a dealer know that you have a trade-in until you've negotiated him down to his lowest price.  First find out how much the car can be bought for if you had no trade in. Then ask the dealer what price you'll pay for the car if you trade-in your current one. The difference between both prices will tell you the value the dealer is placing on your trade-in.
  • Wash your car but don’t clean it out. A dealer will take your car for a test drive and see that all your personal belongings have been taken out and the car has been cleaned and will know that you want a quick sale. He might offer you a lower deal in the hope that you will take it to get rid of the car quickly.
When you have found the car you want, the next step is to check out the condition of the car and do a car history check before you buy.

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