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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

    Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

    £96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

    £32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

    Recruitment Genius: PA

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert