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How to be in the driver’s seat when buying a car

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Buying a car can be a stressful experience, and many consumers come unstuck by failing to do their homework.

From buying at the wrong time of the year to picking a lemon, there’s a long list of common mistakes people make which can end up costing thousands of dollars.

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Chief executive officer of CarsGuide.com.au Lauren Williams says solid ground work is crucial to avoiding problems down the track.

“Usually a car is the second biggest purchase that someone will make after buying a house,” Ms Williams says.

“While many struggle to get their heads around the minefield of car dealerships and scrolling through endless options in the marketplace, there are a number of essential tricks to help Aussies get themselves ahead of the game and bag the best deal.”

Timing is everything

Buying a car at the right time of year can end up saving you thousands, Ms Williams says.

The market is often predictable, with prices lowered to coincide with seasonal sales at several different periods of the year.

The biggest savings can be found at annual end of financial year sales when dealers look to move out old stock.

Buyers should take advantage of Christmas sales, midweek specials, and the months around February to March when new stock has faded in currency.

“[These months are] when last year’s models start to feel old and new models enter the market. It’s a time to leverage cheaper deals and negotiate for upgrades.”

Isaac Bober of practicalmotoring.com.au suggests keeping an eye on run-out deals.

“Dealers don’t want yesterday’s news clogging up the yard,” Mr Bober says.

“If they won’t negotiate on price you might be able to get them to throw in some extra kit. Remember, they want to get the car off their lot, because everyday it’s there and not on someone’s driveway it’s costing them money.”

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Do your homework

Ms Williams says half of CarsGuide.com.au’s traffic is drawn from savvy consumers researching a potential purchase.

She advises compiling a list of cars in the same age range across the current market to gauge the playing field.

“If you’re looking at a number of different cars in the same make and model you can get a sense of what that’s going to be worth.”

Mr Bober sys buying near new can offer an advantage but make sure to get an approved vehicle inspection and request a complete history report.

“Buying a six-month old car, or a ex-government fleet car can save you big dollars. Most of them will have been well maintained, so you’ll get an almost new car that’s been well looked after and yet you’ll save the initial depreciation of buying brand-new.”

Work out a budget

Once armed with sufficient information on the types of cars you find appealing the next step is to work out how much you can actually afford to spend.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s MoneySmart guide to buying a car urges buyers to factor in not only the purchase price but the additional yearly costs of running a car such as registration, maintenance, insurance, and fuel.

After a price range has been decided upon, consumers should assess all their options.

For example, it might be better to save hard for a few months so one can afford the right car, rather than rushing into a purchase for the sake of it.

lead-imageAvoid a trade in

Ms Williams advocates avoiding trading in your car at a dealership because you can usually draw a better price from selling it yourself.

“One of the main things about private sale is you have to have people test driving your car and it’s in your own personal time, but there is an upside financially,” Ms Williams says.

Haggle

To find the best deal and using the above tips as research, Ms Williams says consumers should approach buying a car in the knowledge they are in the driver’s seat.

“The dealer’s want to move their stock and inventory,” Ms Williams explains.

“They will negotiate so you just need to have your facts and figures and know what you’re willing to pay and negotiate.

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