How to cut your motoring costs - Buying a car

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  • 35 ways to save cash
  • Buying, fuel, insurance and servicing
  • Save £100s over the year
Motorists’ finances have never been squeezed so hard. Use these top tips to help save money when buying and running your car

Buying

1 Never pay the full list price. The Target Price is the minimum discount you should expect. Take your copy of What Car? to the showroom and ask for the Target Price listed for the car you want. If your dealer won’t give it to you, call us on 0845 527 6394 and we’ll find you one that will.

2 Remember that the Target Price applies to optional extras as well as the car itself. For example, the Target Price on a Ford Mondeo represents a saving of 8% on the list price, so make sure the dealer applies the same percentage discount to any options you want.

3 Get competitive quotes from other showrooms and online brokers. What Car? publishes information on the hottest deals from car makers, including discounts, finance deals and other incentives.

4 Don’t accept a poor trade-in valuation. Our online valuation calculator at www.whatcar.com/valuations will give you an instant free valuation and a personalised certificate detailing the current private, dealer, trade and part-exchange values for your car.

5 Think about how you’ll pay for your car. Many manufacturers offer ultra-low finance rates (sometimes 0% APR) that will save you money in the long term. If you change cars often and ownership doesn’t bother you, consider leasing; the monthly repayments can be low, and you needn’t worry about the car’s depreciation.

6 A big discount means little if the car you buy loses value twice as fast as others in its class. Depreciation affects the price you’ll get when you sell the car, and may also have a bearing on finance or lease repayment rates. You can compare the depreciation of up to four cars at once with our Depreciation calculator .

7 Discounts on new cars generally get bigger the longer they’re on sale. If you don’t care about being seen in the latest model, you can save money on one that’s soon to be face-lifted or replaced.

8 Dealers often get bonuses if they sell a certain number of cars each month or quarter. Save your showroom visit until the end of these periods and the dealer may be willing to offer a cracking saving just to secure this extra reward.

9 Wait until the March and September new-reg rush has died down. Salesmen know people want a car with the latest number plate, so are able to reduce the amount of discounts they offer. If you’re prepared to wait a month or two, you should enjoy bigger price cuts.

10. If you’re flexible about colour and trim, you could get a big discount on a car that’s already in stock, rather than having one built to your specification. You may also get a car with more bells and whistles on it if you’re prepared to take a car that the dealer is keen to shift.

11 If you run a company car, your employer is likely to provide options for you to choose from. Remember that your monthly tax bill will shrink if the car’s list price is low, it doesn’t have many options and has low CO2 emissions. Our tax calculator will do the work for you at whatcar.com.

12 Buying a new car means you’ll suffer the financial sting of its value dropping most steeply the moment you drive it off the forecourt. However, if you go for a nearly new car that’s six or 12 months old, someone else will have taken that hit.

13 Dealers sometimes ‘pre-register’ cars to make it look like they’re selling more, and these come with bigger-than-usual savings. Bear in mind, though, that you’ll be the car’s second registered keeper, so check the warranty transfers to you. Insist on the dealer handing over the V5C certificate, too.

14 If you’re looking at a used car, get a history check done. Use a company such as HPI to make sure it hasn’t been stolen and doesn’t have finance outstanding on it. The £20 this costs will be worth it if the car turns out to be dodgy.

15 An independent vehicle check by organisations such as the AA and RAC can provide peace of mind on the mechanical condition and reliability of a used car. You might also consider buying an extended warranty to give you additional protection.

16 Choose a car with a good aftercare programme. Some manufacturers now offer free servicing deals, special insurance packages and long or even lifetime warranties. For example, Seat’s three-year free servicing offer, tied in with its finance package, could save you around £600.

17 Think about the type of driving you do. If your daily commute is short, you could consider an electric car. It will be pricier to buy than a conventional car, but will incur no tax, be cheap to power, and you’ll avoid the London Congestion Charge and sometimes even parking charges.

18 Opt for the most fuel-efficient car in the class you’re looking at. This will save you money at the pump, and you’ll pay less tax. Look out for cars fitted with engine stop-start systems; they’re often more economical to run if you spend a lot of time on urban roads.

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