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Five critical questions for car buyers


RateCity Staff

RateCity Staff


The decision to buy a new car may seem insignificant compared to purchasing a house, but the due diligence required is very similar.

A wrong move in the bargaining process could equal years of additional debt, while a hasty selection could diminish the resale value.

Essentially, it comes down to the questions you ask at the onset, which include the following:

Does it meet my needs and expectations?

Before you get started, it’s wise to come up with a checklist of what exactly you’re looking for in a car. New or second hand? Prestige or budget? Compact or family? What model?

Then, narrow down further and ask whether it has the right safety and reliability ratings, ticks the boxes on fuel efficiency and has a clean maintenance history if it is second hand.

Do I know anyone with this car?

An honest reviewer will tell you what the car dealer or private seller won’t. Scan your social network to see if anyone has the car you intend to buy and ask them for the pros and cons. Did these car buyers have a good experience, or did their car purchase turn out to be a lemon?

You can also look on sites like reddit for reviews of various makes and models. Motoring enthusiast forums can be a source of knowledge for inexperienced car buyers, offering information that might not normally be visible to the naked eye.

What are the running costs?

Underestimating the cost of running your new car is a dangerous mistake from a budgeting perspective. Find out how much it costs to service (get quotes from several auto-mechanics), how much a tank of fuel is and how long it typically takes before parts start to deteriorate. Then find out how much part replacement costs are.

Other car costs for car buyers to consider can include car insurance, stamp duty and registration, the cost of which can vary depending on the state you live in. Do your research to make sure you don’t get caught out by unexpected expenses.

Can I do better on price?

Always be willing to negotiate on price because the sticker price is rarely what the vendor expects to sell it for. If you have doubts, walk away, even if that takes the offer off the table. Often, if you go back in 24 hours, the offer will still stand.

How will I finance it?

Car loans are becoming a more popular way of paying for a new vehicle for car buyers who don’t have ready finance, but before you take one, it’s important to evaluate how much you can afford to borrow, what your repayments would be and how long the liability would hang around.

Unlike houses and units, cars inevitably depreciate in value, so only take a loan if you’re comfortable you will be able to pay it off over a period of time, in a variety of circumstances, and know that you are unlikely to recoup the sale value. 

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