How to get the best deal on a new car

If you’re thinking of getting behind the wheel of a new car, follow our tips to get the most suitable one at the best price...

car showroom

Buying a car can seem like a daunting process, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Simply follow our seven steps to bag your perfect car with the minimum of fuss.

1. Decide what type of car you need

Note down a list of your most important requirements to help you decide what type of car will suit you best. Think about how often you carry passengers and how many, and whether or not you cart around heavy kit, such as pushchairs or golf clubs.

If you need seven seats, there are a number of options: an MPV, an SUV or some large estate cars. The current popularity of SUVs means you might get a bigger discount on an estate or MPV. If you need space for three child car seats, check out our guide to the best models in various car classes. 

Also consider whether you’d prefer a car with a petrol or diesel engine, or a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle. Generally, if you do lots of motorway miles you’re better off with a diesel, whereas hybrid and electric vehicles are a great idea if your journeys suit them.  

Car showroom

Your budget might dictate whether you go for a brand new, nearly new or second-hand car, but there are other considerations, too.

Buy new and you’re more likely to benefit from tempting manufacturer-backed deposit contributions and low-interest finance deals, but your car might lose value more quickly than an older model.

If you want the latest safety technology, you’re more likely to find it on a new car, but if you want a car in a hurry and want to choose from a large pool of potential vehicles, nearly new will be the better option.

Find out all the pros and cons with our full new or used car buying guide

3. Set your budget

How to get the best deal on a new car

As well as working out how much you can afford to pay in monthly instalments, calculate how much you are able to pay as a deposit, and what you'll have left to pay for servicing and maintenance. 

Whether you’re buying new or used, you’ll still want the best deal possible, so spend some time online looking at similar cars on offer. You don’t have to buy online – although a growing number of people do – but browsing adverts on the internet is a great way to get a feel for prices and discounts. It also helps you to narrow down your options to two or three potential vehicles.

If you’re buying new, visit our New Car Buying service to get your new car at a great price. Here, our Target Price deals are used as a basis – Target Price is the most our team of mystery shoppers think you should pay for a new, factory-ordered car based on their everyday haggling. Dealers using our system are encouraged to match or beat Target Price – and if they don't we'll highlight it to them and you, and if necessary do all we can to find you one that will.

If you’re buying used, check out our used car deals section. All the cars there are sold with a warranty and are less than eight years old with a mileage of no more than 100,000 miles. That means you can pick your perfect car with confidence. 

If you have a car to trade in, you can get an instant valuation on the What Car? valuation page. If you're buying used, you can also use the valuations tool to see if the asking price is competitive. 

4. Choose how to finance your car 

Very few people pay for a car in cash, especially if it’s an expensive new one, but there are lots of different financing options.

Personal contract purchase (PCP) deals are the most popular form of finance with private buyers because the monthly payments are lower than those of any other form of finance. That means you can afford a more expensive model. Thanks to low interest rates and manufacturer deposit contributions, they are sometimes the cheapest way of buying a car outright, so it's worth checking out the deals on offer before you buy. 

You can also buy a new or used car on hire purchase or buy taking out a personal loan. Find out more about all the options in our car finance guide

5. Go for a test drive

Once you have a shortlist of cars, it’s important to give each one a try. Offset pedals, a clunky infotainment system, limited head or legroom, or a poky boot are just some of the things you won’t discover until you experience a car at first hand.

BMW X7 Neil Winn playing with iDrive system

A test drive at a local dealership is also an opportunity to haggle with the sales staff for a discount or extra equipment on the car. If you’ve done your research beforehand, you could even print off the best deal you’ve found online and ask the dealer to match it.

When national coronavirus lockdowns are in place, it might not be possible to take a test drive in a car before you buy it. If that is the case, check that the dealer has a returns policy in place so you can reject the car if it turns out to be unsuitable.

It's also important to check that the car seller has Covid-19 safety precautions in place, such as sanitising cars before and after test drives, and the provision for you to do a solo test drive if circumstances dictate that this is the safest option.  

6. Secure the deal

Make sure you fully understand all the documentation about the sale before you commit to buying the car. It's common these days for buyers to have the relevant paperwork emailed to them or sent in the post to reduce contact and the time spent in the showroom. That also means you'll have more time to read through it all before signing it.

The next thing to do is agree on a delivery date that suits you, and to get it in writing in case there’s a delay.

It’s also important to arrange car insurance in advance. In fact, buying three weeks before you want it to start could cut the cost by hundreds of pounds, as our insurance savings guide shows. You might also want to take out Gap insurance to cover the cost of a replacement vehicle if yours is written off or stolen in the first three years.

7. Take delivery of your new car

car transporter

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, many car dealerships have made big changes to the way they do business. One thing many of them have done is introduce contactless car delivery so don't be surprised if your vehicle is brought to your home on a transporter or driven there by a member of the dealer's staff. 

Taking delivery of your new car is exciting, but it’s also a time to stay level-headed and check that the car’s specification matches what you ordered. It’s far quicker and easier to get any omissions rectified straightaway than to have to go back to the dealer later on.

Even if the car is new, check the bodywork and wheels for scratches or small dents because it might have been damaged as it was being prepared for sale.

Finally, don’t forget that the buyer is now required to purchase car tax (VED) for any vehicle, so be ready to do that.

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