Sales of new cars may be down a bit this year, but there will still be close to two million joining the roads during 2011, and the September spike in the sales chart is just around the corner. Sue Baker explores the options for 61-plate buyers, and looks at the best ways to maximise the value of your new car investment.
Eyes peeled, they’ll soon be on the road. Those new 61 registration plates will very shortly be out there to be spotted in the traffic, sparking an eruption of first sightings boasted about in the office, down the pub, on Twitter, and anywhere else car-watchers interact with one another. If you are one of the lucky ones who expects to be at the wheel of a new registration car on or shortly after the first of September, be it private purchase or company car, here are some pointers to ensure that you get the best value out of the big outlay on a spanking fresh new model.
DRIVING A BARGAIN
Car dealers are hungry for sales, and you can harness that hunger to your advantage. Check out the price your local dealer is quoting against other franchised outlets further afield, and via the internet. Use that information as a bargaining tool, to achieve at best a useful discount, or at least some extras thrown in to sweeten the deal. Diesel Car’s Hot Deals section lists the best deals around too.
The fuel we put in our cars used to be known as ‘liquid gold’. At today’s prices, it deserves to be called ‘liquid platinum’. With the precious stuff so painfully pricey, the miles-per-gallon figure of the car you choose to buy is a crucial element in the decision process. Of course, you’re giving yourself an instant advantage by buying a diesel in preference to a petrol car, but there can be significant variation within a single model range, with an average mpg of 50, 60 or even 70-something easily possible. So it makes sense to hunt out the best possible combined economy figure, especially when bearing in mind that the car’s real-life mpg is likely to work out at least 10 per cent poorer than that laboratory figure generated in ideal conditions.
Maybe a hybrid is on your immediate horizon, or perhaps even an electric vehicle. Those are canny choices for benefitting from benevolent taxation on greener motoring, but for any plug-in car the cost of installing a suitable power point at home may have to be factored in. If the range between recharges suits your driving lifestyle, driving an EV can reap significant benefits – staying away from money-grabbing filling stations being the most attractive.
Good fuel economy figures have a direct relation to low CO2, so paying close attention to the combined economy figure will also ensure a beneficially small CO2 figure. Like it or not, carbon dioxide output from a car’s exhaust pipe has a vital bearing on what that car will cost to run. So much depends on it: what you pay for the annual tax disc, how much you have to fork out in company car taxation, whether or not you pay a toll to drive into London.
FREEDOM OF LONDON
If you live anywhere near London, the congestion charge is bound to figure in your thinking. That £10-a-day charge is an irksome tax on driving through the central area, so finding a way of avoiding ever having to pay it is very attractive. Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are exempt, but so is any new 61-plater with a CO2 figure of less than 100g/km.
Those gaudy, extrovert showroom colours may look very attractive glinting under bright spotlights, but they can look rather garish outside in the real world on a cool, grey day. If one tempts you, give yourself a reality check and ask friends and relatives what they think. It’s a strong pointer to how potential buyers or a dealer might react when the time comes to sell on the car to a subsequent owner, or trade it in for your next new car a year or two down the line.
As a general rule, bright, garish colours are fine on a very sporty or quirky model, but can actually devalue a more mainstream model on the second-hand market. The wider the appeal of the colour you choose, the easier it will be to find a buyer next time around. Choose a wild colour, and you narrow your chance of selling the car on at a decent price.
BE A CANNY FOURTH COLUMNIST
Turn to Diesel Files at the back of the magazine, run your finger along to the fourth column in those lists, and study carefully. Here is what you need to know about how much your shiny new 61-plater is expected to be worth three years down the line with around 36,000 miles on the clock. Paying attention to these figures can make a big difference to what the car costs you in ownership during the time you have it. RV – residual value – can save you money or cost you dear. Ignore it at your peril.