Whether it's a commuter, an extension of your personality, or for work, the options available are more plentiful and varied than ever before.
To make sure you get the right car for the right price, research and preparation is key.
Here are 11 questions you should answer before you take the plunge.
This story was first published in December 2018.
What sort of car do I want?
Wants, as you know, are different to needs.
Luxury and next-generation technology is on a lot of people's lists, but a basic A-to-B car is often more realistic. Digital radio might be nice, but FM can suffice to save a few bucks. Do you need a built-in sat-nav if other devices do the job?
Cars come with all manner of options these days. Work out what's crucial and what's a sweetener.
What sort of car do I actually need?
Think about the core features you require from the car and the type of driving you'll be doing with it and then ask big questions.
Is it for the family? Is it for work? Is it to take you to the shops and back? Will it tow the caravan? Is it cheap to run and maintain? Is it all of the above? Does it need to be?
What is my budget for a new car?
If you think smart and do your research, you should be able to land the car you want for the right price. You may hear of a brand-new sedan being sold at a base price of $40,000 but to get everything you want the costs can blow out by thousands.
Instead, a car that costs a bit more and comes with everything as standard may be a better and cheaper option for you.
What car finance do I need?
Is this a trade? Do you have the cash in the bank or do you need to get a loan? Should you lease it? What finance does the car company offer and is that a cheaper package deal?
Get the calculator out and see where you stand financially. And before you enter a dealership and get ready to seal the deal, work out how you're going to pay for the car and have it ready to go.
How long am I keeping this car?
Whether you're the kind of person who upgrades cars every few years or plan on keeping the new ride in the family for years to come, servicing, long-term warranties and resale value are factors to consider.
Is it worth spending a little more today to save a heap down the line for your needs?
Auto or manual? Petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric?
This is for the purists out there – even though it's increasingly a question you don't even get the chance to ask. Know the answer before you get too attached to models that don't have the option.
What sort of car maintenance and insurance can I afford?
Will the service costs meet your budget? Does the insurance premium go up or down because of your lifestyle? Go online and get some quotes and toggle the options.
Where should I go for a new car?
Your local dealer is the most logical option, but it's worth looking throughout your region to see what else is around.
Establishing a relationship with the right dealer and service department could be worth hundreds over the life of your car.
How many cars should I test?
Once you have narrowed down your focus to what you think ticks the most boxes, head to the dealers and arrange a test drive.
Try to book the car for 24 hours if you can so it's thoroughly tested. If you have five candidates on your list, test all five. If it's more or less, so be it.
Even if the second car you drive feels like the right one, it's not worth writing the others off. Confirmation by trying a few more never hurts. And knowledge of rival products could be a boon when negotiating.
Does the car have a roadworthy certificate?
This may seem like an obvious question with an obvious answer when talking about new cars, but unless your new car has never been registered, it will require a roadworthy certificate.
This applies to second hand cars, as well as ex-demos. Most dealers will – as a default – ensure the car has a current RWC, but it’s worth a question just for peace of mind.
How do I get the best deal?
Research and a little bit of timing can do you some favours here. Check out CarAdvice regularly for the latest news and reviews.
If you're absolutely certain what you want and aren't fussed on timing or particular options, time can be your friend. As the calendar year ticks over, dealers will often sell cars built the previous year for a discount or with extras included in the price.
Otherwise it's worth thinking about your negotiating skills. You may not be able to talk down the price of a car given its margins, but if you can get a discount on servicing, options or spares, you're still saving money.
And, let's face it, who doesn’t love landing a good deal?
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