Five critical questions for car buyers

Five critical questions for car buyers

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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How much is your car worth?

If you already own a car, you could potentially bring down the cost by selling your car in the process. Before that happens, though, you’ll need to find out how much your car is worth.

One of the first places to find this value is to research the value of your current car, giving you an idea of roughly how much it’s worth in its peak condition.

There are plenty of websites that offer a free online valuation, allowing you to enter your car’s make, model, year, badge and description, with results listing a price guide based on both selling your car privately and through a dealership.

Of course, dealerships will try to profit on your trade-in by buying it for less than they can sell it, making it highly unlikely that you’ll get the same price selling a car to a dealer as you would selling a car privately.

However, private car sales can be costly and can take months to sell, making car trading more convenient with a guaranteed return, even if you may not be able to realise the total value of your car’s worth.

Remember that everything is negotiable. If the dealership is offering you less for your trade than you wanted, try to negotiate elsewhere to gain that money back. Start by negotiating on the price of the trade and then ask them if they can give you a further discount on your new car.

How much is my car worth?

If you own a car, it may be something that can help you bring down the cost of your next vehicle purchase through its sale. However, before you can do that you’ll want to find out how much your car is worth.

Your car’s worth can depend upon various aspects, including:

  • Age
  • Condition
  • Model and make

A great starting place for aspects of this includes websites that offer online valuations, allowing you to enter your car’s make, model, year, badge and description, with the listed results displaying a price guide based on both selling your car privately and through a dealership.

Both have pros and cons, as cars can be very profitable, something that will no doubt impact any chance you have to make the most of your car’s value upon sale. Dealerships will try to profit on your trade-in by buying it for less than they can sell it for, so you shouldn’t expect the same price selling a car to a dealer that you would necessarily get selling a car privately.

Can I buy a car as a student?

Buying a car is a huge financial decision, and shy of marriage and purchasing a house (or perhaps around the world travels), it may be the biggest financial decision you make. But if you’re looking at your empty pockets, don’t despair! Your dream of owning your own car could become a reality, if you look for and compare the right car loans for your circumstances.

How do you get a car loan?

There are four different ways you can get a car loan. You can go straight to a lender. You can get a finance broker to organise a car loan for you. You can get ‘dealer finance’ – which is when the car dealer organises a car loan for you. Or you can organise your own car loan through a comparison website, like RateCity.

Whichever method you choose, you will need to provide proof of identification, proof of income and proof of savings. So you may be asked for any combination of passport, driver’s licence, bank statements, payslips, tax returns and utility bills. You might also be asked to provide proof of insurance.

What is a car loan?

A car loan, also known as vehicle finance, is money that a consumer borrows with the express purpose of buying a vehicle, such as a car, motorbike, van, truck or campervan. Car loans can be used for both new and used vehicles.

What is an LVR?

The LVR, or loan-to-value ratio, is a percentage that expresses the amount of money owed on the car compared to the value of the car. For example, if you take out a $15,000 loan to buy a $20,000 car, you have an LVR of 75 per cent. LVRs change over time as you pay off your loan and your car depreciates in value. For example, two years later you might now owe $10,000 on your car, which might now be worth $15,000. In that case, although there would still be a $5,000 difference between the size of the outstanding loan and the value of the car, the LVR would now be 67 per cent.

What is a secured car loan?

A secured car loan is a loan that is connected to a form of security, or collateral. Generally, the security for a car loan is the car itself. If you fail to repay the loan, the lender might seize your car, sell it and then use the proceeds to recover their debt.

How much can I get towards a new car as a single parent?

It really depends on your financial circumstances as to how much a lender will grant you towards a new car as a single parent. With most lenders, the smaller the loan you apply for, the higher your chances are of approval, so getting a cheaper car or adding some savings of your own, may be a valid option if you are struggling for approval on a car loan.

Where can I get a student car loan?

Student car loans are not a necessarily a product in and of themselves, but what you may be looking for is a guarantor car loan.

A guarantor car loan has a third-party act as a form of guarantee for your loan application, telling the bank or lender that if you default on your loan, someone will pay the loan repayments.

Going guarantor on a car loan is no new thing, and before internet-based credit scores, guarantor car loan applicants would apply for loans with a guarantor or property owner who could vouch for the person borrowing the loan.

To get a guarantor car loan, you’ll need someone willing to act as a guarantor for your car loan.

How much can I get towards a new car as a single parent?

It really depends on your financial circumstances as to how much a lender will grant you towards a new car as a single parent. With most lenders, the smaller the loan you apply for, the higher your chances are of approval, so getting a cheaper car or adding some savings of your own, may be a valid option if you are struggling for approval on a car loan.

Can I get a car loan with poor credit?

Poor credit doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get finance for your car purchase, though your options aren’t likely to be the same as someone with good credit.

In fact, a number of specialist lenders exist offering car finance for customers with poor credit, able to provide access to bad credit car loans.

However having a history of poor credit will likely mark you as a potential risk to lenders, so your car financing needs could see higher fees and interest rates. Alternatively, consider a secured car loan, which is a type of loan that uses the car you purchase as collateral, reducing the risk.

Other options include getting someone close to act as a guarantor for your car loan, or to talk to a broker about a personalised rate specific to your circumstances.

What is dealer finance?

Dealer finance is a car loan organised through a car dealer – as opposed to car loans organised by a finance broker or directly by the lender.

I’ve been denied a car loan before; can I still get car finance?

Even if you’ve been denied a car loan before, you might still be able to get car finance. The key is to make the right application to the right lender.

The ‘right’ application is one that makes you look like an acceptable risk, which might include things like improving your credit score, increasing your savings rate and accumulating a bigger deposit.

The ‘right’ lender is one that deals with borrowers like you. For example, while some car loan lenders only deal with good credit borrowers, there are others that specialise in bad credit or poor credit borrowers.

What is a car lease?

A car lease, also known as an asset lease or finance lease, is an arrangement by which a finance company buys a car on your behalf. You get to borrow the car in return for making regular payments to the financier. At the end of the lease, you can either buy the car or hand it back.