Tips for Buying a New Car

Tips for Buying a New Car

Buying a new car can be an exciting adventure filled with options, numbers, and tough decisions. I know that when I was first looking for a set of wheels, I couldn’t make up my mind. While it might look as simple as choosing the vehicle, checking to see if you can afford it, and then driving it off the lot, there are a number of key considerations you should be thinking about before you even leave home.


Family buying a new car
Image: Liz West

Nothing is worse than picking up your brand-new car to hear through friends that the model you selected actually has a pretty bad crash-test rating. Instead, start your car hunt by doing your research in advance. There are a lot of that will tell you about everything from safety, to drivability, reviews, and even re-sale value. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, family, and colleagues for their experiences with different manufactures and models. Cars just one of those things that everyone has an opinion on – and trust me, they do! For good measure, also speak to your insurance agent to determine the cost of your premiums for the different models you’re looking at. Keep those figures in mind when making a final decision.


Car dealership parking lot
Image: Frankie Leon

One of the most crucial decisions you’ll need to make when buying a new car is how you plan on paying for it. There are a few options here. While some people recommend buying a new vehicle outright to save on fees and interest, it’s understandable that many people won’t be able to afford the full amount upfront. In that case, you can choose to lease (a.k.a. rent) your vehicle. This means that you will pay a set amount per month for a set term (often 24, 36, or 48 months). Alternatively, you can choose to finance your vehicle for a set term with a small deposit, where you will ultimately own the vehicle once the set term has expired. Leasing is typically more affordable than financing, but you will have to pay a percentage of the car’s value at the end of the term in order to own it. So it really does depend whether you see yourself hanging onto the car for just three or four years or whether you are looking at a new vehicle as a longer-term investment.


Woman staring at laptop screen
Image: Till Westermayer

As you narrow down your list of choices, make sure to compare prices online to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. Considering that the base price, or manufacturer’s suggested retail price (“MSRP”), typically excludes many accessories or options like paint colour, lights, sunroof, heated seats, and upholstery material, you’ll want to see which dealers are offering competitive packages that include options on your wish list. Don’t be afraid to call ahead to see if there are any inventory sales on the horizon or if there might be any special deals available to you. Often, there are programs for seniors, students, and repeat buyers. Last but not least, never take the first price thrown out at you by a sales representative. Dealers have the ability to haggle the price lower than advertised, so make sure to take your time on the lot until those numbers start coming down.


Blue car on the road
Image: NRMA Motoring and Services

While reviews, research, and price comparisons will help you separate fact from fiction, none of it really matters if you don’t like getting behind the wheel on your first test drive. Dealers will typically let you take out any model on their lot, but feel free to inquire if they have your short-listed vehicles in stock. Make sure to take along a pen and pad to take down your notes after a drive, and to list any questions you may have for sales staff. Be sure to ask about included and extra warranties, delivery fees, and wear-and-tear coverage. I personally recommend the latter for those opting to lease a vehicle. This helps to avoid a bill for any minor scratches or dents at the end of your term. A trip to the dealership can also be a great opportunity to negotiate on price, or have some options thrown in at no additional cost.


Woman standing in front of a car
Image: Lindsey Turner

The last thing to keep in mind is that, like any other large purchase decision, make sure to take your time and make a decision when you are free from pressure. In addition, before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to  check with the Insurance Bureau of Canada VIN database to verify your new car’s VIN number and ensure the history of the vehicle matches what you’ve been told about it – even on a new car purchase  (a lower than expected deal could be a warning sign). Sellers may try to get you to make an impulse decision on the lot – and you may be tempted to do so – but take the safe approach, lay it out on paper when you get home, and sleep on it. You’ll feel more confident in your decision, and soon you’ll be driving the car of your dreams.

Have another tip to share? Let’s chat. Use the comments section below.

Lead Image: Johan Sonin