Is it time to look for a new car?
It might be that you have just passed your driving test, so it could be the first car you will ever lease or buy. Or it might be that your old car is no longer suitable for your needs, so you might be on the market for another.
Whatever your reason for looking for a new car, there are some steps you need to take when determining what car is right for you. To help you, we have detailed these steps below to steer you in the right direction!
1: Consider your needs
It’s important to differentiate between need and desire, as it’s no good purchasing a car that looks good and has a ton of flashy extras if it isn’t practical for you. So, while we aren’t saying don’t go for your dream car, you should still give some consideration to functionality, as your personal needs have to dictate your spending choices.
These are some of the practical considerations you need to consider.
- How many passengers will you need to carry?
- How much cargo capacity will you need?
- How much parking and garage space do you have at home?
- What safety features are you looking for?
- What sort of distances will you be driving?
These questions will help you in your buying decision. If you have a family, for example, you will need something with enough seats for everybody. You might also need space for child’s car seats. If your commute is long, you will need something that will give you good fuel economy. So, consider each of the questions we listed, and then think of any other practicalities. You will then be able to narrow down your search, and you will be less tempted to buy a car that isn’t right for your situation.
2: Consider your budget
You need to set your budget before your search, as you don’t want to buy or lease something that you won’t be able to afford.
If you are looking to buy something on finance, or if you are considering leasing a car, it is generally advised that the monthly payment shouldn’t exceed 15% of your take-home pay. If you are able to buy something outright, then that might be something you consider if you can afford it. However, in all cases, you should also factor in the other expenses that you will be expected to cover, including car tax, insurance, breakdown cover, and fuel costs.
If you can determine a realistic figure at the outset, this will help you when researching the cars at the local dealerships or their online equivalents.
3: Consider whether leasing is better than buying for you
Should you lease or buy? This is a question facing many people on the market for a new car today, so you might want to pose the question.
When leasing, you will be able to drive a more expensive car at lower monthly payments. You might also qualify for the Vauxhall Motability scheme, and that will give you the means to afford a new car at a reduced cost. Repair costs are often covered when leasing too, so this will be one less expense for you to worry about. The only frustration is that you will have to give up the car when the lease period ends, although you will have the opportunity to shop around some of the latest models, and you could renew the lease.
When buying, you will be able to own the car outright. That means you will have the freedom to modify it how you like, and you also have the freedom to sell it if you later need the money. There will also be an end to the payment plan, so you won’t have to make monthly payments forever. However, if your budget is low, you might not have the opportunity to drive the latest cars on the market, which is where leasing can prove more attractive.
There are pros and cons to both buying and leasing, so weigh up your options.
4: Consider the used car market
If you’re planning on buying a car, it might be that a used car will be better for your budget. You might not be able to find something with the latest features, but you could still opt for something that is a couple of years old, and that contains some of the safety features and other car technologies that are now being fitted as standard.
You do need to take care though. Buying used is often the cheapest option, but reliability is something you need to consider. You should always ask a qualified third-party to check the car before buying, as there could be hidden faults.
In some cases, buying used is advantageous. Not only will you be paying less at the outset, but you will also have a vast array of cars to choose from. This means you might have a better opportunity to find a car that suits both your budget and your practical needs.
Take a look at this used car checklist when considering this option.
5: Do your research
When you have an idea of the type of car you might need, it is time to start shopping around. You can do this online and off, so take your time, and don’t rush into a decision, even if you do find the car that seems to be right for you.
When online, look for car review websites. These will give you the lowdown on the best and worst cars on the market and will detail such things as features, performance, and strengths and weaknesses. Read a range of reviews, from both buyers and car experts, and use their opinions to shape your search.
Then research local dealerships online, and look for customer reviews on these places as well. While most dealerships will be reputable, there might also be those that aren’t, so the reviews you read should prove useful.
You can use online review and dealership sites to compare those cars that fit your criteria. You can check prices online too, so when you see something that you like, extend your search, as you might find the same car or similar at a cheaper price elsewhere.
You also have the option to buy from private car sellers, so do check your local classifieds. The only issue here is that private sellers might care less about their reputation than an official dealership owner, so you could be sold a lemon (a bad car, not the fruit). There are some tips here on buying a car privately, so have a read. There is guidance on the questions you need to ask the seller and advice on how to avoid getting ripped off.
If there are dealerships near you, be sure to visit them when researching the cars that are available. Compare the prices with those you have found online, and mention these to the dealers, as they might knock down their prices to match.
6: Take a car for a test drive
If you have found a car that suits your budget and your practical needs, then great. You are almost good to go! However, the test drive is very important, as not only do you need to make sure the car is actually driveable, but you want to make sure that you feel comfortable driving it too. You might also want to bring your family along with you on the test drive, as you will then know whether the car is actually big enough or not.
On your test drive, check for any faults. These will include signs of wear and tear on both the inside and outside of the car, but they will also include any mechanical faults. An engine that struggles to start, loose pedals, faulty elements on the dashboard, and weird smells and noises are just a few of the things you need to watch out for. It might be worth taking along a driver who is more experienced than you too, as he or she might pick up on things that you don’t on the test drive, especially if your heart is ruling your head!
Then check for other things on your test drive. Are the seats comfortable to sit on? Do the included extra features actually work? Do your hands feel comfortable on the wheel? Ask yourself: Will I enjoy driving this car for the long-term? There is much to consider when test driving a car, so take your time, ask yourself the important questions, and perhaps take other cars for a test drive so you can compare experiences.
By following the steps we have suggested, you should be able to find the right car for you. So, let your head rule your heart, and be diligent in your search. After all, the last thing you want is a car that doesn’t suit your needs, as you will have wasted both your time and money. With the right car, however, you will have the opportunity to drive something that is perfect for you, and you will never regret the purchase.