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Buying a new car checklist

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Our checklist before you buy your next car

1. Do your research

Don't go into a car dealership and buy a new car without doing your research. Here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding on a car:

  • What kind of vehicle do I need? (SUV, minivan, small car, etc.)
  • What brand of car I'm going to buy?
  • Are the reviews of the car positive?
  • How much is it?

Asking yourself these questions can help narrow down exactly what type of new car you want. Instead of being overwhelmed with a huge range of options, you'll have a better shortlist to choose from.

Really think about what you'll be using the car for and what suits that need the most. Are things like boot space and safety ratings your biggest priorities compared to say fuel economy?

By putting the time into researching the different vehicle options, you'll make sure you spend your hard-earned money on something best suited to your needs, rather than be caught out of pocket with a car that doesn't quite cut it. 

2. Figure out what your budget is

Working out your budget is an important step in understanding exactly what you can afford when you're exploring new car options.

A budget not only gives you a solid savings goal to work towards, but also helps you think about what you can pay upfront as well as how much you'll need to account for running costs. 

There's no point paying extra upfront for a car only to turn around and realise you needed to go for one of the more affordable options. 

Another important aspect to consider is not only what you can afford to purchase, but what you can afford to run and maintain.

Budget Direct Car Insurance provides a helpful estimate in the yearly costs of running a car.

According to the insurer:

  • The average two car household ownership costs added up to $16,912 in 2019 
  • Metropolitan households pay more than regional households on transport costs $18,596 vs $14,988.
  • The average cost of transport for an Australian household is 13.8% of total annual income. 

loans.com.au’s Ongoing costs to consider:

  • Registration
  • Insurance
  • Servicing
  • License renewal
  • Petrol
  • Car loan repayments
  • Roadside assistance
  • Depreciation

Most ongoing costs associated with a car are non-negotiable. And the size, make and model of your car can increase costs like registration, insurance and servicing.

It’s important to not put yourself in financial stress by using a considerable amount of your savings just on the purchase, leaving yourself in trouble of not being able to keep up with the running costs.

The cost of a car insurance premium also varies greatly depending on a number of factors:

  • Your car
  • Your age
  • Your driving history 
  • Your gender (males pay more due to their less than stellar record on the road) 
  • Your suburb
  • And many other things, such as how far you travel, where you keep the car overnight and even the colour of your car. 

Find out more info about making a budget for your next car purchase

3. Know how you’re going to finance your car

How you finance your car will be based on both your current financial position and the overall cost of the vehicle.

“t is important to consider the type of car loan you’re going to apply for. Do you want a variable or fixed rate? Are you going to use your car as security for the loan or not? When it comes to car loans, there's a few finance options available depending on things like the age of the vehicle and what kind of features, e.g. a balloon payment, you're looking for.

If you are getting a loan, be sure to compare different options and interest rates so you get the lowest car loan rate possible. 

Also keep in mind your credit score to make sure that you qualify for a car loan. Check what options and features will suit you best.

Try to get your car loan pre-approved by your lender, and know how much your car loan amount and interest rate will likely be.

Getting your loan pre-approved makes the process much easier when it’s time to drive away in your new car.

It proves to the dealer or previous owner that you are financially able to pay for the car.

Find out more about the best way to finance your next car purchase.

4. Inspect the car inside and outside

Before you take the car for a test drive, check the car's features. Is the space inside big enough for your family? Is there enough storage space? Are the seats comfortable?

Are you happy with the stereo, the air conditioning, sensors, USB ports, any navigation devices and reversing cameras? Inspect the inside and outside of the car to see if it has everything you're looking for.

Even though it may be a new car, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Make sure to check under the bonnet, keep an eye out for any signs of oil or fluid leaks, and ensure that all the important features like brakes, engine, lights etc work properly. 


Checklist for inspecting a used car

You should be looking for anything you'll have to fix yourself, any damage that means it's a dud and any red flags that might indicate that the seller isn't being honest.

The outside:

  • Consider the state of the outside of the car, look for chips, scratches and damage from weather.

  • Doors and windows: Check to make sure the doors open, the handles work, and the windows smoothly operate.

  • Make sure if the tyres are not worn down and still have tread.

  • Inspect to make sure there are no chips or cracks in the windows.

  • Don't forget to inspect under the car and check for any signs of corrosion.

The inside:

  • Pay special attention to the electronics and check that all the functions work.

  • Check the condition of all the seats and whether the leather or fabric is ripped or scratched.

  • Check the lights turn on and off.

  • Let the car run and see if the air conditioning is working.

5. Test drive the car

Get behind the wheel and take your time. Drive the car on different types of roads and in various traffic conditions, and try reverse parking.

Before starting your test drive, make sure there's adequate insurance coverage just in case anything should go wrong. 

Remember, the test drive isn't just so you can see if it's a nice car to drive, but to make sure there isn't anything a miss. 

Can you clearly see everything from the driver's seat? Are there any blind spots? Let the dealer drive so you can sit in the passenger seat to get a different perspective of the car.

Keep an ear out for any odd sounds too. 

6. Check the warranty of the car

Especially for new cars, there can be a number of extra benefits like capped price servicing or extended warranty, but it’s important you are aware of the fine details.

Understand the coverage of the warranty, and the terms and conditions. Always ask if there are limitations on the kilometres it covers.

Are you going to get a new car statutory warranty or just a manufacturer's warranty?

Final Word

After going through your vehicle buying checklist, give yourself some time to think and decide if you really want to buy the vehicle.

Don't sign anything yet if you don't feel 100% sure that you have found the right car. In short, buying a car is a big purchase that shouldn't be taken lightly.

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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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