Just got back from Mars? If so, you may not have heard that the global economy is slowing down, yet car makers are still churning out new motors at a terrific rate, and they all need to find buyers. As demand lags ever further behind the available supply, the deals just keep getting hotter
You’ve heard it before, but if you’re thinking about putting a 58-plate on your drive this year, you’ve never had it so good. Whether it’s a supermini or an SUV, there are some fabulous deals to be had – and no car manufacturer can claim to be immune from the spending slow-down.
Some car makers are already having such a tough time of things that they’re selling cars to themselves. It’s called pre-registering and it’s always been going on – but as sales slow, the practice becomes ever more prevalent. It’s simple; a dealer registers a load of cars to itself, making it appear that they’ve sold. That helps the manufacturer maintain a high position in the sales charts, while also reducing the stockpiles of new cars – in theory. However, those cars still need to find buyers and the only way of doing that is to reduce the sticker price, usually by 20-30 per cent. You get a car that’s done delivery mileage only, and while your name isn’t the first on the registration document, you also potentially save thousands of pounds.
Whether the new car you buy is pre-registered or not when it comes to paying for it, don’t assume that the finance offered is the best deal available. Car dealers are more competitive than ever – but shop online using websites such as www.moneysupermarket.com or www.moneyextra.com and you’ll see at a glance how good a deal you’re really getting. Finally, the only thing that matters when buying your new car is the cost to change. How much of a discount you get on your new car, or how much you’re offered for your old one is irrelevant – it’s the difference between the two that matters. Don’t be taken in by a dealer offering you a huge part exchange but no discount on the new car – or vice versa. Now get out there and start haggling!
SPECS & OPTIONS
It can be tricky pinpointin the car that’s exactly right for you, because there are so many makes, models, engines and trim levels to choose from – and that’s before options are taken into account. The key thing is to look at what you can genuinely afford; think about the total cost of buying and running the car rather than only the purchase price.
Specifying the car can also be a minefield, so start with a colour that won’t go out of fashion; bright hues such as orange or yellow usually aren’t a good idea, but there will always be a demand for silver, black and red. Then think about what you need the vehicle to do; don’t buy a big-engined car if you’re stuck in traffic all the time – a small-engined car will get you there just as quickly (or slowly).
If you do sit in traffic frequently, it’s worth thinking about buying an auto. They’re smoother than they used to be, but an automatic gearbox increases fuel consumption, raising running costs. As cars are taxed according to CO2 emissions (which rise in line with fuel consumption), you’ll also pay more for road tax; you can find out any current car’s official CO2 rating in the diesel files at the back of this issue. Also choose options sensibly; don’t specify any that’ll generally sit idle, as you get your money back on very few of them. Things like a CD player and air conditioning will make the car much nicer to live with as well as easier to sell on. However, not all options make a car more saleable, so think carefully before you tick those option boxes. These are some of the most commonly specified options:
• Metallic paint: Makes any car more sale able, but doesn’t usually increase its value.
• Alloy wheels: They’re now expected, but only on family hatches and above. City cars and superminis look very scruffy by the time their alloys have been kerbed endlessly.
• Xenon lights: Very expensive to fix when they go wrong, and might ultimately make a car less desirable.
• Parking sensors: Very cheap, and worth while on any car because you’ll quickly save money by not having to visit the paint shop.
• Satellite navigation: Great to have, but very poor value. You won’t get your money back and you’re better off buying a hand-held unit so you can move it from car to car.
• Leather trim: It’s expected on premium cars, but not on the typical small or family hatch. While it’s nice to have, you won’t get your money back at resale time.
WHERE 2 BUY
If you assumed you’d have to go to a franchised dealer for your new car, think again. There are more places than ever to buy a new car, but if you pay a rock-bottom price you’ll probably get a rock-bottom service. The most common newcar outlets are:
Franchised dealers, which are appointed by the manufacturer they represent. They generally charge the highest prices, but should offer expertise along with ease of servicing.
Car supermarkets hold massive stocks and work on tiny margins – so you can make huge savings. There’s usually no haggling, and you can’t choose the car’s specification (as it’s already in stock), but bargains abound.
Brokers can order in bulk and secure savings accordingly. Read any contract before you sign it, because there are often hidden costs hiding in the small print.
Importing from Europe isn’t as popular as it was because Continental prices have gone up, and UK ones have (in many cases) gone down. See the separate panel for more on this.
Even the most basic new cars come with plenty of kit as standard, but when you’re selecting your new transport it’s up to you to haggle for the maximum amount of car for the minimum amount of money. It may be that you can get the next trim level or engine size up, without paying extra. Perhaps you can negotiate some free extras – or maybe you can just chip some cash off the cost. Whatever you do, don’t pay the asking price for any new car – at least get some free road tax, insurance or fuel out of the deal.
You should be able to chip a bit off the asking price of any new car, although how much of a discount you can secure will depend on the vehicle’s value and what badges it wears. Prestige marques tend not to offer many discounts, but with the right timing you should be able to get something out of the dealer – even if it’s just a free tank of fuel.
Incidentally, salesmen are often keener to haggle towards the end of the month, so they can hit their targets; the purchase you make might just trigger their bonus.
Whatever the asking price of the new car, offer a reasonable amount less – something like £500-1500. It may be that you’re offered more than this anyway, as some volume brands will volunteer a hefty discount just to get you interested. This should still only be a starting point for negotiations though, and once you’ve pitched in with your £500+ discount request, www.whatdiesel.com prepare to meet the salesman part-way. You may end up closer to his initial figure than your own, but as long as you knock him down a bit, you’ll have achieved your aim.
Because the margins on new cars can be very slim (most dealers make their money from servicing and parts), you may struggle to get any sort of a discount. If this is the case, ask about a couple of free services, or an accessory or two. A salesman is unlikely to let a sale fall through just because of a £100 difference.
IMPORTING STILL WORTH IT?
Until recently, there was an assumption that a better deal could automatically be had by personally importing from Europe. But things have changed over the last few years, with European prices going up and UK prices falling to the degree that some cars are now cheaper here than abroad. The thing is, while most buyers just compare prices and assume everything else is fixed, nothing could be further from the truth. These are the things you need to be on the lookout for:
Equipment levels: British buyers like plenty of toys, while many Europeans are happy to have poverty-spec cars. While we expect air conditioning, a CD player and plenty of electric assistance for things like wing mirrors, windows and seats, continental buyers aren’t necessarily so demanding.
Specification: It’s unlikely that any car you order will be differ that much mechanically from a UK supplied car, as manufacturers tend to build for a global marketplace nowadays. However, there might be a few detail differences between a car built for the UK market and one produced for Europe (or elsewhere). Things to look out for are lower power outputs, different designs of alloy wheel or radio, an alternative range of colours, or badging that isn’t the same as you’d get in Britain.
Warranties: Whereas most UK supplied cars now come with a three-year warranty, those sourced from Europe will generally have just a two-year guarantee attached. By the time you’ve paid for an aftermarket warranty in the car’s third year you could be out of pocket.