Motoring: How to get the best deals on wheels

With the launch of the S-plate today, John Blauth opens this two- page report with a guide on how to buy a new car

It is curious to the onlooker, but of enormous delight for the professional car seller, that most car buyers discard logic, reason and coherent thought when they enter a car showroom and are faced with shiny, sexy metal and a smooth-talking salesman.

But within months of purchasing a new car the love affair is over and, as with so many impulse decisions, it could all have been so different. Pre-purchase planning is vital and the ideal process for buying a new car comprises three distinct phases.

Firstly, whatever the advertisements and enthusiastic motoring journalists say, cars are fundamentally nothing more than a means of transport. Forget looks and speed. Who needs transporting, what comes with them and where will they need to go, are the most vital questions to ask. From these you arrive quickly at the appropriate type of car: hatchback or saloon, estate or MPV (multi-purpose vehicle or "people carrier") or sports car.

Then there are the practical and financial implications of the new car. With the average driver lobbing out at least pounds 1,000 per year from taxed income in motoring taxes - and that figure looks set to rise annually by about three times the current level of inflation - you must consider the running cost of any car you buy. Big engines need more petrol; liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas conversions require a large investment which needs to be covered by lower fuel costs over the life of the car.

Cars that are undesirable or quirky cost a fortune in depreciation. Cars that are insufficiently protected against theft and which cost a lot to fix after accidents, have higher insurance premiums than cars which have the latest anti-theft devices and have been engineered for low-cost repairs.

Always ask the salesman if he knows the cost per mile of the car he's trying to sell you; if he doesn't, the motoring organisations will. Five pence per mile difference between two cars will cost you pounds 500 per year over 10,000 miles. The cheapest car to run in Britain is the Perodua Nippa, a Daihatsu Cuore built in Malaysia. It costs 13.1p per mile to run; in complete contrast the most expensive is the S600 Mercedes at 123.9p per miles to run.

The final part of the planning process is deciding where to get your new car.

New car dealers are tied by the franchise agreement they have with the importer or manufacturer as to how much leeway there is in their prices. If the margin is between 6% and 8% - as it is for most models - then forget any discount.

However, when times are tough manufacturers give dealers big bonuses to shift the cars and that's when discounts become much easier to obtain. Finding a good deal is simple: get nationwide list of dealers for the car you want and telephone them all to find the best price - then go back to your nearest dealer and start negotiating.

Going to a broker is another option, but it can be a path fraught with dangers, the biggest being the grey import. A car that is legal in Japan or the USA may have been built to different standards than those required by Britain. Vital components including brakes, seat belts and lights as well as transmission ratios, thickness of glass and emissions are likely to be of a different standard to that required in Europe and that could be highly dodgy, not least when you try to sell the car later.

A reputable broker will obtain a car with UK specification for you, often for a very good price and merely charge you a commission. But why be idle? If he can get a discount, surely you can too.

There are no bargains in the new car market. If one car is significantly cheaper than another identical one, there is a reason for the discrepancy and it is unlikely to be you who benefits. The new car market in Europe is the most regulated and competitive in the world. Pre-purchase planning is the only way you can hope to survive. And don't forget: the salesman is not your fairy godmother and he does not really like you, he just wants you to buy a car.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

    £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

    Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

    £26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen