The first thing you must decide before you begin your car research is whether you want a new car or a used car. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. Buying and owning new car is a thrill and an adrenaline rush. But buying a new car needs to be weighed up very carefully. For many people buying a new car is the biggest expense they incur apart from buying their own home so always consider the costs involved and decide whether you really need a new car and can afford one. There are always excellent second hand options available if you wish an alternative option.
It's easy - you visit the showroom and take away exactly what you want.
Made to Order - chances are you can order a new car just the way you want it.
It's Not Used - a new car hasn't been in any accidents, hasn't been uncared for, doesn't smell funny, has seen no wear or tear, and comes with a clean history.
Warranty - you will receive a full break down warranty, up to three years with some manufacturers.
Latest Technology - the newer the car, the more modern the in-car gadgets will be. Multimedia and satellite navigation interfaces are continually evolving and improving.
Safety - as vehicle safety laws become ever more stringent, car manufacturers are forced to change the way vehicles are built and the safety systems with which they are equipped.
Higher Fuel Efficiency and Lower Emissions - cars on the whole are getting more fuel efficient, even while at the same time getting more powerful. The most recent diesels are cleaner than ever before, and choices in the hybrid sector are rising.
Maintenance - some new cars include free scheduled maintenance for a certain amount of time or mileage. This built-in cost saving should be considered in the final price analysis if applicable.
Legwork - once you've chosen a vehicle, or at least the brand you're interested in, much of the new car search can be offloaded onto the salesperson, who can then find the car you ask for. The same search in the used car market requires a lot more legwork on your part. You could consider hunting on the internet, visiting numerous private sellers, and visiting many car dealerships.
The most important disadvantage of a new car is its cost. You pay a premium for the privilege of owning a new car, and due to depreciation, you lose heavily in the first year of owning it.
Car prices in the UK are among the highest in Europe and the average car can drop a disheartening third of its value in the first year of ownership. After three years, depending on the model, it may be worth only 30%-40% of what it cost new.
There are also other related costs while purchasing a new car. These include car taxes and insurance costs that can also be higher for new cars.
Options these days are varied. Car supermarkets, importers, online deals or visiting a showroom are the main choices. Read Review Centre reviews for recommendations on the best car dealers, car auctions, car supermarkets online as well as on the high street and check Review Centre's forums and price comparison guides to offer you even more advice.
Mostly these are franchised dealerships which are tied to specific car makers selling the latest models. They offer finance, convenience and good service including full after sales back-up. They are also expensive and may not offer you the best deal on your old car.
Searching for deals on the Internet can save you considerable time and money. Buying a car online is easier than negotiating with several dealers yourself. Remember, you're not really buying cars online at all; you're just using the web to find the best deals around.
A great way to save a lot of money is by importing directly from abroad. A broker can arrange this or you can do it yourself direct.
Car supermarkets have experienced a tremendous surge in popularity in recent years as more and more people have come to realise the potential savings that they offer. Whether you're looking for a new, nearly new or used car, you can often find the best prices by visiting your local car supermarket. Car supermarkets can offer great deals on imports although choice may be limited.
With the arrival of the new registration plates there are some great deals to be had and discounts to be uncovered on the old plate purchases.
Periodically, car manufacturers introduce a new version of a model and retain the name. If you are keen on potentially massive savings and are not particularly bothered that you will be driving the "older" design, then this option is a very attractive one.
Here you see some relatively minor adjustments to the appearance of the car, such as different shaped grill, headlights, bumper design. Once again when a new facelift model comes out there are some great discounts to be found on the pre-facelift cars.
During holiday periods business slacks off and car dealers will be keen to meet sales targets (and may offer to throw in extras such as an extended car warranty. The downside is that choice may be more limited as dealers won't be holding as much stock. Look out for bumper rebates on cars from September through to November as manufacturers look to shift as many of their cars as possible during this time so that they have space for the makes and models for the coming year.
In order to push up sales of a particular type of car, dealerships may be offered incentives if they sell a certain number of them in any given month or period. To chase their bonus a dealership will be keen to shift the few cars they may need to achieve target as the end of the month approaches. This means that you can land yourself some fantastic deals on the last two days of the month.
During the week car yards are never as busy as on weekends when most people are out looking. With fewer potential buyers on weekdays the onus is back on the dealership, and individual sales personnel, to offer an attractive package which will secure that sale. The last few days in September, October or November are the prime times for guaranteeing the keenest deals. Even better if they happen to fall on a Monday to Friday!
Yes. As long as you fulfil the lender's criteria about your ability to pay. As well as personal loans from banks and building societies the car dealers have increasingly good deals on offer. Before taking any loan, consider the responsibility of this. Always shop around and compare several options in detail. Compare interest rates and the total amount you will pay.
Always consider the reality of your needs. Too big? Too small? A two seater sports car might be great fun for a single person but might not be right if you need to fit several kids and a spouse in it. Consider whether it will fit in your drive, garage etc. Measure it up. Consider comfort (try before you buy if possible) visibility - the colour of the car as well as your ability to see out of it - mirrors, windows etc. Ask yourself what you want a car for? What are your priorities? Low mileage, value for money, reliability or speed? Style and status? Take your time and research properly. Try not to impulse buy. Read consumer reviews like the ones at Review Centre to help gain unbiased views. Get as much information as you can about such a major purchase.
Shop around when buying a car. Ask for discounts and see what 'extras' are available such as insurance or breakdown cover. Don't be afraid to haggle. Try to buy towards the end of the month when salesmen are keen to make their targets and may accept a bit less.
Always check the small print and remember don't be pressured by salesmen into buying the wrong model.
Check small print on special deals including finance offers which may only be for a limited period.
Free insurance may come with minimum age restrictions.
Sale deals may be available for end of the line vehicles. Be sure you are happy with that.
Budget - be honest with yourself and calculate carefully any credit repayments and running costs.
Insurance - car insurance is an increasingly expensive cost for motorists. Consider the insurance category for your vehicle before you buy. Get as many quotes as possible.
Current Car - if you are trading in your car, then make sure it is clean and tidy to maximize the price you will get. Also consider a private sale which will probably be more lucrative.
Extras - be careful as these can be costly. Typical extras are air-conditioning, automatic transmission, leathers, metallic paint and ABS brakes.
Test Drive - test drive at least three different cars. Drive them on urban and rural roads, small road and motorways to assess the car properly.
Diesel cars generally give you more miles to the gallon than petrol cars.
New diesels may cost more than new petrol cars to buy but you should be able to sell them for more, too!
Road tax is based on official CO2 emissions and diesel cars generally produce less CO2 as they're more efficient.
Diesel engines warm up more quickly from a cold start than petrol which can take around a mile to get up to temperature. Once warm though, a petrol engine is cleaner than diesel, and gives out lower emissions - better for the locals.
So, if you do frequent short journeys where the engine barely warms up, then a diesel could be better. If, however, you spend most of your time stuck in traffic around town, then a petrol car's best.
On the motorway, fuel consumption is similar for petrol and diesel cars, so there's not much to choose between them.
Diesels are better for towing as they have more torque, while extreme performance is still petrol-driven territory.
You can buy a new car that runs on LPG or get your petrol car converted. Cars that run on LPG cost more to buy than petrol or diesel ones.
The gas is around half the price of petrol or diesel, but fuel economy will be around 25% less. Overall, LPG works out around a third cheaper than petrol and diesel - once you've done enough miles to recoup the extra cost of the car. The higher your annual mileage, the quicker you'll recover the extra outlay.
Several car manufacturers offer models that have a small petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor. The car's electronics run one or both motors, depending on how much power you need.
Good for city motoring, hybrids are cleaner than petrol or diesel. Running costs should be cheaper, too. One of the downsides is hybrids are more expensive to buy than petrol cars. You may also find they're difficult to sell on as potential buyers may be nervous about their reliability because they're technically complex.
Offer affiliated brands and offer you protection from the Consumer Protection Act. They will also provide parts, service and after sales service.
Independent Used Car Dealers are also regulated by the Consumer Protection Act but are not linked to any particular models. They can be a source of good source of quality used cars but will be more expensive than buying direct.
Buying direct from the owner is where you will find the best bargains. Try your local small ads or search the internet. You have little consumer protection though.
Great for bargains, convenient and a range of options.
Superb bargains but you need to know about cars.
A wide choice of used cars often still with manufacturer guarantee but prices are fixed and you cannot haggle. Many find the supermarkets and online car dealers an increasingly good option.
Shop around and do some proper research on the make, model and year you want. Once you have decided on a price stick to it.
The RAC and AA offer vehicle inspections which are advisable if you want a solid, reliable purchase. Always test drive.
Prepare any questions in advance. Write them down if necessary before checking the vehicle out.
Check the mileage and assess whether the condition looks real.
Check the chassis and engine number match the logbook.
Ask if the car is an import or if the car has ever been damaged in an accident.
Don't buy a car without a logbook.
Check the car exterior for wear and tear, accident damage and rust.
Check the car Interior. Are seats heavily worn? Is the steering wheel well worn?
Check under the Bonnet. Take someone who knows what they are looking for if in doubt.
Check the engine noise. How quickly does it start? Try out the gearbox, brakes, electrics. Use your instinct.
Do the seller's reasons for selling the car seem true? Is the service history correct or are there gaps?
Make the deal. Only pay what you want to pay.
Here are a few popular car types:
Convertibles or Cabriolet are often sports cars, meaning two seats, high-performance engines and superior handling. However, GM, Ford, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler offer regular production coupes with four seats and convertible tops. Like all sports vehicles you will pay that bit extra.
Traditional sloping back cars with a hinged rear door that opens upward. Hatchbacks are also often called three-doors and the term hatchback is often typically used in reference to small economy cars. Ideal budget family cars.
City cars are a good bet but can become tatty on the second hand market due to overuse. One of the most popular types because they are so versatile.
Vehicles that cross the boundaries implied by terms like truck, car, or van and may have unusual engine and or fuel combinations. Although Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are now considered a separate class of vehicle they are actually a hybrid cross between a truck and a station wagon or estate car.
People Carriers / MPVs
People carriers offer extra seats so they are ideal for families. Big vehicles so parking becomes an issue. Have become increasingly good value.
Coupe (or Coup)
A two or four-seater car with a fixed roof and two doors. The style is generally used for sportier models in a manufacturer's range and tend to be higher price brackets.
Typical family cars are cheap on the second hand market, especially ex-company cars with high mileages. Plenty of scope for bargains.
Lots of equipment, performance and ability but you will have to pay.
Large petrol 4X4 vehicles are cheaper. Smaller lifestyle 4x4s are more expensive. Massive price and quality range but many affordable models available.
Of course, if after reading this FAQ you decide not to buy a car, you still have other options to consider. You can always hire a car! The advantages are that you only pay for the rental and of course the fuel. Insurance and servicing are included in the rental costs, although you're still liable for any damage on the car caused by yourself.