Motoring News

Buying a car: Used or new, take this expert advice

  • No rush – it’s your cash you’re spending!
  • Budget honestly for yourself – check costs
  • Enjoy the new tenant living in you garage

JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – In the market for a vehicle? The National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) has provided The Corner with some seven tips to help potential buyers to navigate the decision-making and buying process.

You might just avoid a costly mistake…

Mark Dommisse, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association, told The Corner in a media release: ‘’Whether you’re buying new or used, taking tempting short- cuts could result in significant problems. Applying these tips to your purchase process should go a long way towards the right choice.’’

1. Start with a budget
Before heading for the showroom or used-car lot sit down with pen and paper to list all your current (and possibly future) expenses and income. Having established what you can afford in monthly repayments shop around to compare new or used vehicle prices within your budget.

The ‘’left-over’’ amount is your disposable income. From that must come not only monthly finance payments but also fuel, insurance (which will be demanded by your banker/finance house) tyres and annual mechanical service costs.

2. Do some research
What do you actually NEED rather than WANT. We’d all like a sport convertible, maybe a red one, but be realistic. Essentially, your choice, according to your needs, will be between hatchback, sedan, bakkie, manual or auto gearbox ,and petrol or diesel.

Get on to the web and do some research about the reliability, comfort, performance of your choices. Visit some used-vehicle lots and do some browsing – take a car-savvy pal along. Make it a day out…

Some useful tips to apply while you’re browsing:

  • Will the vehicle be used for frequent long trip – or just for shopping, commuting and tooling around town?
  • How many people must it carry – two, four, six, more? Pointless buying a minibus unless you have a large family or lots of car-less friends.
  • Is performance motoring required or will a good commuter suffice?
  • For how long do you expect to keep the vehicle?
  • NADA recommends fully-comprehensive insurance – indeed, if financed, the bank will demand it.

By now you should have whittled things down to a few choices so it’s now time to…

3. Choose a reputable franchised dealer
Assuming you will not be buying from a used-car lot in the wrong end of town, examine the choice of vehicle dealer. It’s where, probably, you will have your pride and joy serviced and maintained. Ask to look at the workshop – are all the bays in use? Yes? Then perhaps it’s a popular place and, mostly, popular places are good places.

Be wary of a private purchase. Mr Jones down the road won’t be giving you a guarantee! Business sales, The Corner believes, carry an automatic one-month warranty. Check with the seller.

4. The test-drive.
A test drive is the only way to get a solid impression of a car’s driving dynamics, features, and comfort. Some suggestions:

  • Book an appointment for a test drive. If the car’s not ready, or the salesperson makes excuses, your choice is to hang around or leave. It’s the first impression you will get about the dealer – an unapologetic, casual, attitude does not bode well for future visits.
  • Don’t be talked into a ‘’just-around-the-block’’ drive. Make sure there is sufficient fuel in the tank and try the car around town, in the country, at full speed on a freeway, wherever. If safe to do so, try hard acceleration from stationary; execute an emergency stop…
  • Are the controls easy to use? Is there enough cargo space? Will a child-seat fit? Does the car have child-seat anchors (bring it along, with junior, to test).
  • Don’t feel obligated to buy the car the same day. Chill, and think it over.

5. Maintenance / service plans
Even if you’re on a tight budget, it’s worth paying a little extra for a reputable maintenance or service plan, – it could save you heavy money  in the long run. You get to pay today for future service and maintenance.

Some vehicles need imported parts so rand volatility is a concern. Add inflation and labour costs to the mix and it is easy to see the advantage of securing future costs upfront.

A maintenance plan is a convenient way to make sure requirements met. Such contracts vary from brand to brand but usually cover a range of wear-and-tear items and labour, as well as servicing.

A service plan fixes the predetermined servicing costs for the duration of the plan, the consumer pays a once-off (or monthly) amount to secure the cost of all future services which are secured at today’s costs.

Discuss these products with the dealer’s finance manager.

6. Close the deal
If the price, finance costs and any other fees are OK, it’s time to say ”Yes!” to the deal. You’ll be presented with a finance contract: READ IT CAREFULLY before signing to avoid a surprise down the line.

If you’re not sure about any point, ask – a good finance manager will explain each form and what it means. Take your time – buying a car is a serious commitment.

7. Take delivery
The vehicle, new or used, should be clean – including the engine and its bay. Give the car a final walk-around, checking for any dents or scratches that might have occurred during transportation. Take picture, if you feel like it.

Finally, let the salesperson give you a tour of your car. The rundown should include showing you, for example, how to pair your smartphone (if this is a feature) and demonstrating features and safety devices.

Don’t be scared of seeming ignorant – one day the explanation might be useful. And do yourself a favour – read the darn owner’s manual. Most people don’t – someday they will be sorry.

Ask for demonstrations of the car’s features – vehicle tech has changed considerably in recent years!

Now there’s only one more thing to do: enjoy the new tenant for your garage or parking slot.

Drive safe!

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