If you are seriously considering buying a car, there are a few crucial things to consider before taking the proverbial plunge. While it is widely accepted that the value of a car depreciates the minute you drive off the lot, these tips may help you organise the planning phase and save you a significant amount in the process. 

1. Research 

Once you have identified the type of car you are looking to buy, it is time to do the leg-work. Check automotive magazines, car owner club forums and motorhead websites for tips and comments from objective sources.

If you struggle to find useful, readily accessible information on these platforms, post a question asking a current owner to share his experiences with you. Asking mechanic friends about their experience with other cars in the same model will help provide some valuable objective background knowledge as well.

The car will be your financial responsibility once you have signed on the dotted line, so don’t be led by the heart (even though that 2-door convertible looks incredible in red!) and make a measured, careful decision instead.

You will thank yourself later for having avoided the burden of excessive repair and maintenance costs.

2. Determine your Comfort Level

Once you have identified the right model/ make for your needs, it’s time to weigh the numbers. If you are taking a loan to finance your purchase, be aware of how much you are willing to set aside for instalment payments each month.

This amount will not be the final number though, as a buffer for servicing and maintenance will have to be worked in. Although you are highly unlikely to send the car for servicing each month, it is prudent to plan ahead and account for vehicle servicing costs in manageable amounts each month instead of having them snowball and surprise you when the car needs a check-up.

In addition to this, add the price expenses of parking, road tax, insurance, and any other recurring costs that owning a car in your country entails.

Fuel is another new financial commitment that will present itself once you start driving your car. To get an estimate of this, work out your usual routes (work -- home -- school -- relatives’ homes) and calculate the cost of these trips based on prevailing petrol prices and the average fuel consumption figures of your car.

NOTE: Fuel consumption figures are normally presented as an average of two factors- driving on a highway and driving in urban areas. As the amount of fuel consumed varies greatly between these two driving modes, be sure to use the mode that best reflects the area you live in and the type of driving you will be predominantly doing.

Now, increase this budgeted fuel amount by 40% as most car owners end up driving much more than they originally account for because, let’s face it, driving is great fun!

Add all the above elements and look at this final sum. Are you happy and comfortable to set this aside for a convenient mode of transportation? 

3. Get Finance Pre-approval

For those of us seeking a bank loan to finance the purchase, there is a simple preparatory step that will save a great deal of money and potential heartache.

Before heading to the dealer to close the sale, visit a few banks and find out what financing offers they can extend you for your upcoming investment. Making these enquiries and arming yourself with letters of offer is equivalent to walking into the dealership with a briefcase of cash, putting you firmly in the driving seat (pun intended) when it comes to negotiations.

WAIT! Before you make these loan enquiries, check on the local credit bureau regulations in your country.  In certain countries, having several banks perform a credit report check on you could affect your rating adversely. However, if they are all made within a 14-day period, it may count as one enquiry, and not affect your rating as well. Having said that, if your country has a consumer credit reporting system that is not linked to your credit score, you are free to proceed and speak to as many banks as possible!

Once you are armed with these magical offer letters, you have a benchmark to compare the offer that the dealer puts forth, giving you flexibility and the peace of mind that you are getting the best deal possible.

4. Time the Market

Observe the car market, looking out for launches and news of upcoming revisions to your car model in order to time your approach well. By the end of the model year, most car manufacturers are likely to offer discounts to offload their stock and prepare for the next batch of incoming cars.

Newly launched cars are likely to come with discounts as well, but they often have other associated costs that even out the seemingly lower price.

If you baulk at having to wait that long, make a visit to the dealer near the end of the month when most sales persons are probably trying hard to make their quota for the month. They may be more inclined to give you a good deal just to ensure that the transaction goes over the line and their numbers are given a boost. 

5. Everything is Negotiable

Contrary to popular belief (and the claims of most car salesmen), everything is negotiable. Prices and “compulsory” add-on fees are often printed on sales contracts, giving the impression that they are fixed. However, customers should be aware that a buffer is always built into these figures to maximise profits.

Dealers are often able to offer a better price, or at the very least, a better deal for options or a greatly reduced price for an accessory you have your eyes on. Educate yourself by looking around beforehand, and do not be afraid to walk away from a bad deal or an overly pushy salesman. 

Bonus: Shop your Trade-In

If you are trading in an existing car, make enquiries at other second-hand car dealers before walking into the store you want to purchase your new car from. Just as you would shop around for your new car, make sure to look around to get the best trade-in value for your old car as well.

Remember, the dealer you are buying your new car from may not always offer you the best deal on your existing machine, and shopping around helps you identify the best deal and potentially save thousands of dollars!

Once you have secured a great deal on the purchase of your next car, you will have to start looking for a good mechanic you can trust. Check out this article for some industry secrets that mechanics might use, and make sure you stay ahead of the curve! Good luck, and remember to drive safe always!


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