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10 key questions to ask when buying a new car

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There is nothing quite like the smell of a brand new car. It can be enough to make you want to sign on the dotted line after your first test drive.

But that would be a mistake because, when you are buying a new car, there is a lot to consider. Next to a house, a new car is probably the biggest purchase you will make, so choose wisely. Follow our checklist for buying a new car and every time you start your engine you’ll enjoy that surge of satisfaction that comes with knowing you made the right choice.

Here’s the guide questions:  

1. Does it meet your needs?

Ask yourself how you will be using the car. Is it for city driving? In that case, you probably want something small and easy to park. Will you be taking it on dirt roads or sand? If so, you will need a 4WD. Will you have children or regular back seat passengers? Opt for something more spacious and be sure to sit in the rear seats yourself to check that they’re comfortable.
Do you need lots of room in the boot for lugging prams, bikes, travel luggage or golf clubs? Bring these items along to make sure they fit.
Choose a car that not only suits you now but for the next five years or so when you might start thinking about trading it in.

2. Can you afford it?

Stick to your budget and make sure you can afford the running costs. You will need to check fuel economy, servicing costs, engine size for registration purposes and the cost of insurance (more common models are generally cheaper to insure).

A car loan calculator is a handy tool you can use to get a rough estimate of your car loan repayments. You’ll be able to budget your monthly expenses when you decide to take out a loan, and you’ll know if you can actually afford the repayments.

3. What is the safety rating?

Check the vehicle’s Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating. It’s as simple as punching in the make and model on the ANCAP website (ancap.com.au) and seeing which rating between one and five stars the vehicle has been awarded.
The higher the stars the greater level of safety it provides in the event of a crash. Today’s cars are safer than they have ever been but you don’t want to settle for anything less than a five star rating.

4. What do customer reviews say?

Jump online and see what other people are saying about the car you are looking at buying. People love talking about their cars in online forums and will often mention things you hadn’t considered. You will learn more about the things that work well or don’t work well and might just learn something that is a deal breaker for you.

5. What is the warranty?

Most new cars come with a five year warranty but check if there are limitations on the number of kilometres it covers. Avoid paying for extended warranties which often won’t cover major repairs.

6. Is the technology up to date?

Check for reverse cameras and sensors (especially important if you have children or grandchildren), navigation systems (ideally with free map upgrades), alarms, Bluetooth for wireless phone connectivity, USB ports for phone charging and music devices and any other technology that is important to you. Did someone say automatic windscreen wipers?

7. How quickly will it depreciate?

Luxury models lose value faster than regular models. When it comes to resale you are best to stick with the most popular lines and colours including white, grey and black. But if you really do love that particular shade of red…

8. How does it test drive?

First up, be sure you’re test driving the exact model you’re looking to buy. This is your chance to get to know the car and how you’re going to feel driving it. Don’t be afraid to open every door and window, open the boot and bonnet, press every button and move every lever and knob.
Turn on the radio to check the sound system, toot the horn, turn on the air-conditioning, listen for engine noise and road noise, test the blinkers and wipers for ease of use, check acceleration from a stop position and while driving, check that the gears change smoothly, do a reverse park and try the turning circle. Bring a checklist with you so you can compare cars later at home.

9. What about the little things?

We all know someone who chose their car because it came in that particular shade of red or because the dashboard looked nice. Such considerations shouldn’t determine your decision, but after all the important boxes have been ticked, it’s sometimes the little things that count.

10. Does it feel good?

You have gone through your checklist, crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’, and one car is coming out ahead – but you just can’t take your mind off that other one you really, really liked. It’s OK to feel emotional about a car. Just like the house you buy or the partner you marry, it has to feel right. Use your head but listen to your heart to avoid regrets.

And one final bonus tip!

When it comes to buying a new car you may not be able to afford the full cost of the car upfront. In this case you'll likely need a car loan to make your purchase.

If you’re getting a car loan to finance your car purchase, getting a pre-approval will help you narrow down your choices in terms of the price range. You’ll get an idea to how much you can spend on a car, and how much you can  borrow to purchase a car.

After working through the checklist allow yourself at least a week to think things through. You don’t want to make an impulse buy on such a big purchase. Give it some time and you will feel more certain about which car is right for you. Happy driving!

About the article

As Australia's leading online lender, loans.com.au has been helping people into their dream homes and cars for more than 10 years. Our content is written and reviewed by experienced financial experts. The information we provide is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives or needs. If you'd like to chat to one of our lending specialists about a home or car loan, contact us on Live Chat or by calling 13 10 90.

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