Tips for first time car buyers

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Once you’ve got your licence you’ll soon be thinking about buy a car, if you’ve not begun already. There are so many variables to consider when buying a car – odometer readings, age, price – that it can seem overwhelming. And since getting it wrong can be a very expensive mistake, here are some tips for first time car buyers we hope will help you make the right decision.

Decide what is essential and what you can live without

Is safety paramount and therefore airbags are non-negotiable? Or are you a mountain biker that needs a tow bar for a bike rack? Do you want a small vehicle that is less expensive to run? Or is style the number one priority that trumps all else? Whatever your preferences, know what you’re looking for before you set out.

Decide how you would prefer to buy

The common methods of buying a car are privately, at auction, or from a car yard. And they each have their pros and cons. When buying through a private party via Trademe for example, you have the security of the feedback system so you can determine the trustworthiness of the seller. At auction you may get a good price if no one else is interested in bidding on the same car, and from a dealer you may get additional benefits such as a warranty or free servicing. On the downside, on Trademe you could get ripped off and find it difficult to have any comeback, auctions can be scary or you could get overexcited and pay too much, and at a dealer you could also pay more than you would online. So weigh up the options and decide which approach suits you best.

Do your research and learn as much as you can

Being prepared and knowledgeable about the sort of car you’re going to buy is important. Otherwise you may be drawn in by misleading information given out by the seller, whether they do this intentionally or unintentionally. As a first time car buyer you’re probably buying a car at the bottom end of the market pricewise and these cars are more likely to have hidden problems than new cars. So don’t skimp on the homework, you have to become a bit of an expert on the subject of used cars if you want to avoid making a mistake:

  • Talk with friends and family
  • Read car reviews online
  • Check out rightcar.govt.nz to see a car’s safety rating
  • Check car prices online – even if you decide to buy from a car yard, it pays to check prices online on Trademe so you have a feel for what the type of vehicle you’re looking at is worth.
  • Visit reputable car yards to learn

Go for a safe bet

A car is sometimes referred to as “a hole into which you throw money” and certainly if you pick the wrong one this is very much the case. Even if you do your homework you can still end up with a dud unfortunately. But going for a safe reliable car will improve the odds that it will be a good buy.

  • Think about resale value – some cars hold their value more than others meaning that you can sell them on in a few years without losing too much money. Others, such as those with unusual colours or features, may be difficult to sell on. In this sense sticking with one of the more well known and popular models can be a good idea.
  • Get it checked out by a professional – there are organisations, such as the AA, that will check out your vehicle for you and let you know if it’s up to scratch. They charge a fee but this can really give you piece of mind when purchasing.
  • Make sure it’s legit and its paperwork is in order – if you’re buying privately then there are tools online, such as Carjam, where you can check to see if the car has money owing on it. It also needs to have a Wof and be registered.

Get the right price

With so many variables to consider, it can be easy to pay over the odds for a car. So as well as doing your homework:

  • Set a budget and stick to it – it’s especially important if you choose to buy at auction so that way you don’t get over excited and end up spending more than you can afford.
  • Haggle – car dealers generally have a little wriggle room on the price so it pays to ask for a better deal. And the same applies if buying privately, negotiate and see if you can get a better deal.

And before you drive away with your new vehicle make sure you have car insurance!

There is obviously more to it than this, but as a start hopefully these tips for first time car buyers will help you negotiate the purchase of your first vehicle. Good luck, and happy motoring!

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