Your definitive new and used car buying checklist

According to the National Automobile Dealers’ Association, if the global shortage of car components is resolved, new car sales could increase by 10 to 15% in 2022. This is good news for prospective buyers, but how do you make sure you get a great set of wheels, at the best price?

“Getting rid of that old skorokoro or buying something more suited to your needs and lifestyle – is exciting, but it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the best deal,” says Susan Steward, spokesperson for Budget Insurance. “This involves, among other things, being clear on your needs, realistic about what you can afford, as well as ticking off some very important t’s and c’s when doing your research.”

Budget Insurance offers the following money-smart tips when buying a new vehicle:

  • Needs Analysis:  Make a list of things that you need in a car. The amount of passengers, cargo space, safety, fuel consumption, power, creature comforts, luxuries and features, available accessories, off-road capabilities, towing ability, warranties and maintenance plans are all important factors to consider. Make a clear distinction between needs and wants. Prioritise the needs first.
  • Look at your budget and calculate your costs:  Before you visit a car dealership or shop online, you need to determine how much you can pay, monthly. Take an honest, careful look at your budget and be realistic about how much you can afford to spend on car instalments and running costs, including maintenance and insurance.
  • Research carefully: Read reviews of cars available online, in magazines and newspapers – including reviews by others who own the type of vehicle you’re considering - to be as informed as possible when comparing cars. Also pay special attention to after sales support. It’s wise to call in the support of your petrol head friends as part of your research.
  • Set your price target: Once you have found the average selling price of the car you are thinking of buying, do not pay above that average unless you want special options included.
  • Resale Value: Look at the resale value of the make of car you’re eyeing. With fuel prices volatile and on the rise, cars with large engines, poor fuel economy and high running costs generally don’t resale well.
  • Shop Around:  Never jump at the first deal.  Take your time to look at different cars, test drive them and thoroughly consider your options. Also compare different financial service providers. When looking at interest rates, payment terms and the option of balloon payments, make sure to ask about the pros and cons of each of your options and ensure that you clearly understand them. An informed decision can make the difference between a great buy and an expensive mistake.

A new car isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  If you have your eye on a pre-owned car, Budget Insurance has some additional steps that you need to follow:

  • Background check. Buying from a reputable dealer with a solid aftersales record is first prize. In the event of a private sale, ask as many questions as you need to make sure that you don’t end up with trouble-on-wheels.
  • Check the mileage. High mileage cars generally have higher maintenance costs and are more prone to costly repairs. While it might seem like a saving in the short term, the long terms costs, could cost you dearly.
  • The importance of FSH. Cars that have a Full Service History with agents, or reputable, RMI-accredited service centres generally make for a better buy. If the car’s service isn’t up to date, insist that the dealer service the car as a condition of the sale.
  • Check for leaks. Oil and other fluids leaking from a car, however slowly, is a tell-tale sign of poor maintenance or damage. Be sure to check underneath the car, and also in the engine bay. A dirty, oily engine is one you should rather steer clear of.
  • Check the tyres. Tyres that are smooth or unevenly worn could mean anything from bad wheel alignment and balancing to worn shock absorbers, to a collapsed suspension system.
  • Cabin check. Be sure to look out for any chips, cracks and tears in the interior panels and seat fabric. Normal wear and tear consistent with the age of the vehicle is acceptable, but a cracked dashboard, or missing panel, for example, could indicate a much bigger problem.
  • Start and test drive the car. A well-maintained car shouldn’t have any trouble starting or running smoothly. It shouldn’t smoke excessively and the ride should be smooth and free of stutters, gear problems, vibrations, brake noises, turning noises and excessive rattles. Taking the car for a proper test drive on a variety of road surfaces and in different traffic conditions is strongly recommended. Be sure to switch the radio off to make sure that you can listen out for any worrying noises.
  • Safety check. Safety systems like seatbelts and airbags are an absolute must to check. If any of these systems aren’t functioning and needs to be fixed, rather steer past.
  • Test the tech. Make sure that all electric and electronic systems are working. Test the lights, the wipers, the heating and cooling system, the GPS system etc. to make sure that everything works and check the instrumentation panel for errors or abnormal gauge readings.
  • A test worth paying for. You can also ask for a thorough, 101-point-check to be done by a reputable car inspection company, just to make sure that the car is mechanically- sound. These could set you – or the dealer who is prepared to do it – back a couple of hundred rand, but it’s well worth it for added peace of mind.
  • Take out an extended warranty. Various companies offer extended warranties for second-hand cars and, if the car is serviced according to the manufacturer’s specifications, they can provide you with cover ranging from the bare essentials to more comprehensive cover.
  • Beware the “bargain of a lifetime”. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be prepared to walk away. Avoid the temptation of buying a car on the spot. Especially when it comes to bargains. Rather give yourself the time to make an informed, rational decision and avoid buyer’s remorse.

“By taking just one step back to make sure that you’re making a wise decision based on your needs and budget, you’ll make big strides forward in making 2022 a stress-free year, and your new set of wheels one you can thoroughly enjoy when the time is right,”, Steward concludes.