It’s something that most of us will do only once every few years, so it’s hardly surprising that buying a car from a dealer can seem a daunting prospect.
Whether you’re looking for a shiny new model or something with a bit more value, it’s a process that throws up many questions that can leave the inexperienced buyer more than a little jaded.
In reality, it’s a relatively straightforward process. As long as you prepare well and don’t rush into any decisions, you can drive away a car that is absolutely right for you and your budget.
Here’s a quick summary of the four key stages of buying a car:
1. Do your research beforehand
The internet has given all of us the ability to become temporary car experts. You will probably have some idea of the size or specification of the car you intend to buy, so do your homework online. Read reviews, watch videos, compare prices, download buyer’s guides and check for real-time verdicts on Twitter. Knowledge is power, and the more you have of it before you set foot in a showroom, the more confident you will be.
2. Work out how much you have to spend
Good old-fashioned economics can go out of the window if you’ve already fallen for a gleaming new car on the test drive. But it’s vital you are clear about the full running costs of a vehicle, including insurance, servicing, purchase price and depreciation. Choosing a petrol or diesel engine can have a sizeable impact on costs, too.
3. Test drive the car you want
The test drive is an important part of deciding whether a car is right for you, but make sure you get behind the wheel of the exact car you want. Sometimes, your preferred model isn’t in stock so dealers are left with no choice but to take you out in an upgraded version – one that’s probably pricier than the actual one you can afford. If you can drive the correct model, make sure you use your allotted time effectively to weigh up everything from ride and handling to safety, practicality and equipment.
4. Haggle for the best price
Many Brits feel uncomfortable when haggling for anything, but it’s an accepted part of buying a car. If it’s a new car, remember that there will be scope within the price for negotiation, so there is always room for manoeuvre – especially if your research can prove you can get the car cheaper elsewhere. With a used car it’s even more of a buyer’s market, so calmly stand your ground until you feel you have reached a reasonable price. The length of warranty on a used car is a useful bargaining tool, too. In the end, both you and the dealer have an interest in finding you the right car, so there is normally a solution that both are happy with.
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