How to choose a new car
Picking between hundreds of thousands of new and used vehicles might not make for the easiest of shopping trips. Still, despite the amount of research, crucial decisions and thought that needs to go into choosing a new car, the experience shouldn't be anything but enjoyable.
Most people regard their car as one of their most valued and valuable possessions, which is why it really does pay to be attentive and a little bit picky when seeking an upgrade on your current vehicle.
Most dealers and salespeople will expect you to go through everything they can offer in forensic detail to find the perfect match. It's your money on the table, which means you've every right to walk away from the deal if something doesn't seem right.
You can identify a good vehicle by considering the following aspects, before getting down to the added luxuries.
A new car will cost more to acquire but the benefits of buying factory fresh are threefold.
For starters, you'll get the chance to choose exactly what you want. That's the model, colour, specification and interior among so many other options. You'll also gain a full warranty and maybe even a few 'sweetener' deals to help you finance your new vehicle. Finally, there's no unknown history to worry about.
Manufacturers strive to have their new cars fitted with the latest technology in order to boost sales, while their increased focus on providing fuel efficiency to customers means you'll probably get more miles per gallon out of something new.
That's not to say buying used is in any way inferior to getting a new car. Around seven million used vehicles are sold each year, meaning you've plenty of options to choose from if you do go down this route.
You dodge the financial hit of depreciation (the 20-30 per cent that gets taken off a new car's value as soon as it leaves the showroom) and if you can get a decent enough warranty for your used vehicle as well as a certified account of its history, you're given peace of mind as well.
Only you can decide whether it's worth shelling out the extra money to get a new car, but do bear in mind what you could buy used for the same amount of money.
It's incredibly hard not be driven by impulse when you see a stylish car staring at you from the forecourt. Appearance is hugely important when buying a car, but do consider how the vehicle that's catching your eye will look in a slightly less attractive environment.
White cars, for instance, look great in the sun after a good polish, but keeping them in this condition is a task in itself. The winter months will be tough if you know you'll struggle to spend money on car washes or do it yourself. The same applies to cars in black, deep blue or lighter shades of red, but silver vehicles tend to hide the dirt pretty well.
It might also be worth considering what you'll use your car for. Going for the 'sports trim' might pay dividends when you're zipping around country lanes, but will the oversized spoiler look quite so appropriate when you drive out of the office to meet a client?
In most cases you can assess the security of a car without even having to take the keys and step inside. As manufacturers take the safety of their vehicles so seriously, the standard of locks, alarms and windows as well as any security features on board should feature in the vehicle brochure.
If you're viewing your selections online, open up a separate window and find out what these features can actually do to ensure the safety of your investment. These might not make your engine faster or make your paint coat stand out, but they could save you encountering trouble later on.
Finding a car with good fuel efficiency will pay off for you in the long run. Any improvement on your current car's economy will save you money and ensure you're doing your bit for the environment.
Generally speaking, anything above 62mpg (miles per gallon) is good for a medium-sized car (BMW 3 Series, Toyota Auris etc). A smaller 'supermini' (Audi A1, Vauxhall Corsa) should return something better, usually around the 65mpg mark, while efficient SUVs will push for 60.0mpg. Larger cars do however tend to come with diesel engines, making them more economical than their petrol counterparts.
If your dealer doesn't have this information to hand, you can still find out the economy of any vehicle over the internet. Many consumer groups make these figures available through an online database or dedicated application. Just head for a search engine to find the best tool.
Much like fuel efficiency, you can often find out how much a car is likely to be worth in a few years' time through the use of online tools.
What you're looking at here is depreciation; in other words, what your prospective purchase will fetch after covering a certain number of miles and being driven for a specific time period.
If your car can hold around 60 per cent of its value after three years and 30,000 miles, you're in luck. Anything lower and you'll have to consider whether you're interested in making a shrewd investment or just buying a reliable vehicle.
A second opinion?
Gaining car advice from the same person who's trying to sell you one might not be the best idea. Local car dealers are usually reputable enough to buy from, but they might try and paste over a few cracks in order to gain a sale.
Internet reviews can be useful if you know where to go for them. Online car magazines and dedicated review sites should be able to give you a detailed account of what your car can offer, while each one could pick out something you didn't notice on a first glance.
Not only is this a good method of unearthing a few more pros, it's great for pinpointing some of the car's faults, too. Get together four to five reviews of the same car and see what trends you can spot.
However, don't base your decision purely on the opinion of someone else. Take everything the dealer will offer in regards to test drives, week-long trials and demonstrations to establish the true value of what's in front of you. Only then will you be able to make a calculated decision on your new car.
Click here for tips on how to keep your new car secure >