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10 tips for buying a new car

Keep these tips in mind so you can drive away with a better deal.

It’s said that sometimes car dealers can smell an uninformed customer when they walk in and will start circling them like sharks. Depending on what your dealership is like, this might only be a slight exaggeration.

You don’t have to be a car enthusiast to be a well-informed, hard-haggling customer, and paying attention to these 10 quick tips can make a real difference to your car and your wallet.

#1 – Buy a car at the end of the month

Plan your purchase, but avoid signing on the dotted line until near the end of the month. Car dealers operate on monthly sales targets so they’re more amenable to offering discounts and free add-ons around this time. Car dealers are often hungry for a sale in the last week of any month, so this is a good time to buy.

#2 – Be serious about safety

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) safety ratings are no joke. These ratings determine two aspects of safety: crashworthiness (how likely an accident is to injure you or kill you) and crash avoidance and mitigation (the technology that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity). The difference between safe and unsafe cars is enormous. More importantly, it can also affect the cost of car insurance. If you’re after a more cost-effective drive and you want a safe vehicle, make sure you’re getting a model with the most G ratings on different parts of the car. You can find out more about IIHS ratings and the top safety picks here.

#3 – Do your homework on the car you want

Learn about the typical driveaway price of your chosen car before you buy, as well as what add-ons it might come with and how much these are really worth. This gives you a baseline against which to haggle and consider “free” extras. It also lets you determine how much haggling room is left when you’re quoted a price. You probably won’t get a good deal if you don’t take this step, and if you do, how would you know?

#4 – Know the haggling dos and don’ts

  • Do keep your expectations realistic. You probably won’t haggle much off an already-discounted price.
  • Do keep it friendly and polite. Good manners go a lot further and sometimes a deal simply comes down to how much they like you.
  • Do leave your phone number, even if you walk away. They might come back to you with a better offer.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. If they’re not budging, find someone who will.
  • Don’t try lowballing them unless you’re ready to climb back up the price ladder.

#5 – Make dealers compete with each other

A lot of dealers might turn down an offer without hesitation but would accept the very same offer when asked to match a competitor’s price. There’s always a better deal out there somewhere and dealers know it. Try to be in touch with more than one dealer before buying and let them compete for your business.

#6 – Always do a test drive

There’s no substitute for a test drive. If you’re still deciding between different cars or models, test drive them all if possible. Never buy a new car without test driving it first.

#7 – Beware of unwanted freebies and add-ons

Dealers are always ready to generously throw in extras, for free or at cost, to sweeten the deal. Think about the add-ons you actually want before buying and try to resist walking out with something you didn’t want, or unnecessary. Some of the aftermarket goods you almost certainly don’t need are a fancy spoiler, spinning rims or a fancy music system. A new car may already have all of these in some form, or you might even find cheaper upgrades somewhere else. These extras are often just a sales gimmick.

#8 – Check the fuel consumption

Check a car’s Fuel Economy Label that is affixed to the windscreen. This allows you to you to compare efficiency between vehicles and can give you a reasonable idea of what the operating costs of the car might be. According to the fuel economy guide published by National Environment Agency (NEA), every 1 Litre/100km improvement in fuel consumption will provide more than $300 a year in savings. Considering how expensive fuel cost in Singapore, you’d definitely want to consider the car’s fuel-efficiency before purchase.

#9 – Make sure all the boxes are ticked before you buy

Check off these tips before buying for better luck in finding a deal. However, when the pen’s in your hand and the dealer is salivating over your shoulder, you should ask yourself whether you have:

  • Understood the terms and conditions. Make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for.
  • Been to multiple dealers. If you haven’t, then you’re almost certainly not getting the value you could be.
  • Know what is and isn’t included. Be certain that you aren’t paying for unwanted add-ons and that you won’t be missing anything.

#10 – Understand the kind of coverage you need

As with most countries, you can’t drive a car without some form of car insurance. So with your new purchase, you may want to consider comprehensive coverage over the other two of the more basic options: Third-party only (TPO) or Third Party, Fire, and Theft.

Dealers also offer car loans such as balloon payments, but bear in mind it may end up costing you more. If it looks like you’ll be needing a car loan, consider comparing your options before you start your car search.

Image: Shutterstock

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