Your simple guide to buying a car

Motoring 2019-1-17
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To help you along your car buying journey, we’ve compiled a straight forward list of answers to all the usual questions and concerns people have when it comes to buying a car.

So you're thinking of upgrading your car - that's great news. There are lots of bargains out there to be had, but there are some key things you need to think about first.

Don't worry, we have pulled together this ultimate guide to buying a car to make it nice and easy for you, from the best time to buy to selling your existing vehicle.

When should I start thinking about my budget?

In short: at the very start of the process. You should know exactly what you can afford before you even start looking. And don't forget, it's not just about the upfront cost of the purchase, you also need to consider the on-going costs, such as:
- Insurance
- Fuel
- Road tax
- Maintenance and repairs

All of these costs could influence which car is right for you. The last thing you want is to purchase a car that's in line with your initial budget but that you can't afford to insure or tax, or that's written off the first time you need to fix something that you can't afford.

When is the best time to buy?

If your car is currently off the road, you might not have the luxury of time on your hands, but if you do, you can save some serious money from planning the timing of your purchase. 

New car registrations are released twice a year, in March and September. Just before these releases, many dealerships will be willing to do a deal on existing stock in order to make way for the new, so this is a great time to be ready to buy. 

Top tip: Research can take a while and the importance of it shouldn't be underestimated, so make sure you start looking nice and early so you don't rush into buying something that's not right for you, for the sake of saving some money.

Aside from the reg releases, seasonality can also make a big difference to car prices. Not surprisingly, the price of convertibles in summer and SUVs and 4x4s in winter can increase along with demand, but bear in mind that the reverse is also true. If you time it right, you can get a great price. The only downside is that you might not be able to get the top down straight away, but come summer you'll be glad you didn't pay over the odds.

It's also worth bearing in mind that dealership sales people will have targets to hit - usually monthly and quarterly, so if you time it right you might just get them when they're more willing to offer you a deal to get their figures up. It's a bit of a risk of course - if they've already hit their targets they may be less concerned, but it's worth a shot. 

Top tip: Make sure you're always speaking to at least two separate dealerships too, so you can ensure you get the best deal possible.

Research

Should I buy new or used?
This is a really common question and, though the answer isn’t black and white, knowing the pros and cons of each option and exactly what you’re looking for you should help you come to a conclusion fairly quickly. Things to consider include:
- Depreciation - a lot of money is lost in the first couple of years of ownership of a brand new car. The question is, does that bother you, or does owning a brand new car negate this loss for you?
- Safety - a lot of newer cars have advanced safety features compare to older one, so if safety is your number one priority, make sure you do a thorough comparison.
- Choice and spec - you may be able to spec a new car to exactly what you want but it will come at a price. There's plenty of choice when it comes to used cars, but you still could need to compromise on some features.
- The environment - some of the newer cars are better for the environment than their older counterparts, so be sure to do the maths if this is key for you.

Should I opt for petrol, diesel or electric?

This is an important question to ask yourself before you start looking for that car of your dreams. The last thing you want to do is commit to one then realise down the line that the fuel source doesn't suit your needs.

Despite the negative publicity around diesel, it is still the most sensible choice for some drivers.

To help you decide, check out our full guide on petrol vs diesel.

Should I part exchange my old car or sell privately?
This is really a question of convenience vs. savings. First things first, get a valuation on your car using sites such as Parkers, Auto trader and WhatCar?. Once you’re sure you have an idea of how much your car is worth, you can start doing your homework. See what the dealers are offering you for a part exchange and have a look at other cars similar to yours, in terms of both style and condition. 

If you’ve got your eye on a specific used car, it might make sense to part exchange with the dealer as this won’t slow down the process or put you at risk of someone else coming in and buying it from under your nose while you wait for yours to sell. If you’re in less of a rush or are buying a brand new car, you may have more time to wait it out and sell privately, leaving you a little better off financially.

How should I fund my purchase?

If you have the money already in your pocket - great! If not, there are several options. You can apply for finance directly through the dealer, but be aware that a deposit will likely be required. The most effective way to get the best price is to have the cash in your pocket, and that's where a personal loan can help. Having the cash ready to go may persuade the seller to give you a better price, knowing they'll have that money straight away if you commit to buy.

Should I take some for a test drive?
Yes! Always test drive a car if you’re thinking of buying it. You’ll never know how comfortable you’ll be in it unless you do.

If you’re looking to get your hands on a new motor, check out our low cost Car Loans from just 3.2% APR Representative between £7,500 and £25,000.
Hitachi Hints and Tips is intended to be informative and interesting. It does not constitute financial advice, and you should always do further research when making any financial decisions. All information was correct at date of publication.

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