What to consider when buying a new car

Buying a new car is always exciting, but it is a significant investment, so how do you find a car that is going to be perfect for you now and in the years to come?  A car that may be great for one person may not be great for another. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you find the best car for you.

What’s your budget?
If you have cash upfront for your car – great, you know your budget.  If not and you  need to finance it, a general guide is that your loan repayments should be less than 20 percent of your take home wages.   This obviously also depends on your other expenses now and over the term of the loan.  So if you’re thinking of having a family in the near future, you may not want to take out a large loan when you’re going to have lots of other costs.

What’s the real cost of the car?

Some cars may be cheaper to buy but more expensive to own. For a start, some cars require more frequent maintenance or might have expensive parts. Some may attract more expensive insurance premium or they might depreciate faster, so there will be a cost difference if you decide to sell the car later on.

Have you considered other cars in the same class?
If you have your heart set on a specific car, it’s still good to have a look around, even if it simply confirms your choice. Have a look at comparable vehicles in the same class to make sure you haven't overlooked anything. Car comparison sites like carsales.com.au and CarAdvice provide great tools to do this across a variety of models so you can see which cars have the features that are most important to you.

How much power do you need?

Many road testers talk about how long it takes to get from zero-to-60kmh-, but in reality, unless you plan on drag racing or are towing very heavy loads like a truck driver or a caravan, very few people ever actually use full throttle. The average car buyer doesn’t need any more than is necessary to keep him or her comfortable on a test drive.  And remember, larger engines also use more fuel so they cost more.

What about hybrids and diesels?

While both of these will stretch your fuel dollar, choosing between a diesel car or a hybrid depends on the type of driving you do. Hybrids tend to use less fuel in city areas, when low speeds and frequent braking keep them running on battery power longer and are better for the environment.

Diesel drivers see their greatest benefits on the highway, although diesel vehicles are more efficient than regular petrol cars at low speeds too but are believed to be damaging to the environment. According to News.com.au motoring writer Richard Blackburn, the World Health Organisation declared diesel fumes carcinogenic in 2012 and four of the world’s biggest cities — Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City — are looking to ban diesel-powered vehicles from their city centres.

What to look for during a test-drive? 
Your testing should start at the showroom.  Simply sit in the passenger and backseat as well as the driver’s seat and take a look at the car’s boot. If you have kids, it’s an idea to bring along their car seats to test for fit and how easy it is to install, get your children in and out etc.

When you take a car for a test drive, think about the way you would drive it during your everyday life. In general, try driving over road humps, try taking tight corners and make sure you test the brakes (in a safe location!)

If you drive the car to work, see how it goes in “stop-start” traffic as well as at higher speeds along a highway (you can skip this second bit if you live in Sydney!)

Make sure you take your time on the test drive and try not to get distracted. Listen to the sound of the engine, so turn down the music (we’re talking to you music fanatics – you can check out the sound system back in the showroom).

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you make the right choice:

  • In general, how many passengers do you need to carry?
  • Do you drive a lot and for long distances? If so, is fuel economy important to you?
  • What safety features are important to you?
  • How much cargo space do you need – and will this ever be for bulky items?
  • Will you be using children's car seats?
  • Do you tow things or carry things on your roof?
  • How much garage or parking space do you have?
  • Do you tend to drive on highways, surfaced streets, or do you also want to go off-road?

And then are the truly least important questions like:

  • Does it make me look good?
  • Does it make me feel good?
  • What colour will I look best in?
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