THE ULTIMATE CHECKLIST FOR BUYING A NEW CAR
Date published: 07/06/23 All content in this article is intended to be general in nature and does not constitute and is not intended to be financial or professional advice.
Buying a car is a huge financial decision, and ROLLiN’ understands you’re keen to get it right. With so many cars on the market, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start, where to go, and what to get. If this is you, you're probably looking for the ultimate car buying checklist, and we reckon we've got you covered. With our tips and tricks, you'll be sniffing that new car smell sooner rather than later.
TL;DR: THE ULTIMATE CHECKLIST FOR BUYING A NEW CAR
- Is the car within your budget?
- Does the car have all the features you need?
- Do you have room to negotiate the price?
- Do you need to know some car jargon?
- Do you know how you’re going to finance your car?
- Have you inspected the car inside and out?
- Have you test driven the car?
- What’s the warranty of the car?
- What’s the ongoing costs of the new car?
- Have you gotten multiple costs from multiple dealers?
1. IS THE CAR WITHIN YOUR BUDGET?
Making sure you buy a car that you can afford is an important part of choosing the right car. There’s no point test driving Paganis if you can only fork out enough for a Ford.
It’s a great idea to work out what your budget is before anything else, because then you’ll be able to effectively research for the right car, which will help you make a shortlist.
2. DOES THE CAR HAVE ALL THE FEATURES YOU NEED?
Your ideal car will have all the features important to you, but will still be within your budget.
By identifying these features, you work OUT what features are nice to haves and which ones you need. This way, you’ve got a better chance of sticking to your budget. And it’ll keep you from stepping up higher in the range for upgrades that you probs don’t need, let alone actually want.
Keep in mind buying a car you love probably means you’ll have it for as long as possible before you buy another one. So while it can be a good idea to make sure you don’t splurge on a heap of unnecessary features, you might want to make sure you don’t miss out on the features you love.
3. DO YOU HAVE ROOM TO NEGOTIATE THE PRICE?
The best way to know if you can negotiate the price of your new car is by doing your research. So, go out and get some quotes from other dealers. By finding out different price points at other dealers, you might be able to leverage these prices to get the best deal. When you’re at your chosen dealership, perhaps they offer a “on the road” or “changeover” price if you trade in your current car. Maybe the demonstration model will go for a little bit cheaper. Whatever they offer, it’s good to be in the know, so be a little nosy.
4. DO YOU NEED TO KNOW SOME CAR JARGON?
It’s probs not a bad idea to brush up on some of the terms you might be hearing when you’re buying a new car. The last thing you want is to be swindled into adding a flux capacitor because your salesperson says you can’t do without it. Having a good understanding of the terminology you might come across can also help make the process smoother and faster, and you’ll likely have a better chance at negotiating.
To get you started, we’ve covered the common phrases you’ll likely hear.
|Term||What it means|
|On-road costs||These are costs you’ll have once you buy the car, like vehicle registration, compulsory third-party insurance and stamp duty, for example.|
|Manufacturer’s List Price (MLP)||This refers to the price of the car and excludes on road costs.|
|Drive-away price||Pay attention to this one, because the drive-away price includes the MLP and the on-road costs.|
|Changeover price||If you’re trading in your old car, this is the additional amount you’ll pay to make up the drive-away price for your new car.|
|Build date||This is the month and year your vehicle was built. You’ll likely find it stamped on the build plate which is usually in the rear corner of the engine compartment.|
|Compliance date||You’re gonna wanna know the month and year your vehicle was certified as complying with Aussie Design Rules. It’s generally a few months after the build date.|
|Model year||Manufacturers generally assign a model year to a certain specification. So for a car that’s MY17 (model year 2017), it’ll likely have different features to a MY16. But keep in mind that a MY17 model built in 2016, for example, is still considered a 2016 model, which can impact the resale value.|
|Manufacturer’s/ factory warranty||This type of warranty may require a return to the dealership to get your car serviced and it's likely you will need to make sure your car is always fitted with genuine parts.|
|Dealer warranty||Unlike a manufacturer’s warranty, a dealer warranty typically requires that you return to the dealership for servicing to maintain the warranty.|
5. DO YOU KNOW HOW YOU'RE GOING TO FINANCE YOUR CAR?
Financing your car is a fancy way of saying how are you going to pay for it. And if you’re like the majority of us, you actually don’t have a cool $30k or so squirrelled away for a brand new car. If this sounds like you, you might be looking for other solutions.
If you’re able to, you can head to the Bank of Mum and Dad to get an interest free (we’re assuming) loan. Or you can head to an actual bank or lender to get a car loan, which probs won’t be interest free (soz).
6. HAVE YOU INSPECTED THE CAR INSIDE AND OUT?
Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you’ve thoroughly checked the inside and outside of the car. Even though you're not buying a used car, it’s important to do a pre-purchase inspection for any damage and to make sure the car is working properly. If you prefer, you can also get a mechanic to do a pre-purchase inspection on your behalf. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Check for any damage to the paint or the glass, like scratches, cracks, chips and bubbling paintwork. New cars shouldn’t have any, but it’s worth checking before you accept the car in the condition that it's in.
- Try all the doors and windows to make sure they all work and operate smoothly.
- Now it’s time to pop that bonnet. Keep an eye out for things like oil and fluid leaks.
- When you jump in for a test drive, get a feel for the space. Is it big enough for your family of humans or one thousand rescue dogs?
- Check that all the features and accessories work and/or actually exist. Can your seats fold back as promised? Do you have floor mats? Is there a ten stacker CD player to play Taylor Swift’s entire studio catalogue (Taylor’s Version)?
- Now focus on the electronic accessories. Check the bluetooth connectivity, charger ports, stereo, indicators, engine and warning lights, and aircon, just to name a few. It’s also good to just flick the lights off and on a few times to check they’re working. Can’t see without lights.
If you come across any faults, make a note for them to be fixed without charge during the first service. Ask the sales rep to acknowledge any faults you found by signing the note you get on delivery of your new car.
7. HAVE YOU TEST DRIVEN THE CAR?
This is our fav part of the car buyer's checklist because it's when you get in the driver's seat. Taking your new whip for a test drive is super important.
The salesperson will often come with you on the test drive, but, if you can, it’s a good idea to go without them. If you’re not a massive car nerd, try and bring along someone you feel comfortable with. Preferably someone who would be good for pointing out the things about the car you might miss and give you the best advice.
Try and do a test drive for as long as you can. This way, you can get a better feel for the car. Have a crack at parking and low-speed manoeuvring. It may be a good idea to not just stick to urban and arterial roads, but get out on the highway or motorway as well, if you're permitted to do so by the salesperson.
Now before you drive off, make sure you’re across any conditions of the test drive. This might include if you’re liable to pay for damage during a collision or fines you get during the test drive. Whatever the conditions, just make sure to read the test drive agreement carefully and that you're comfortable with it before you sign anything.
8. WHAT'S THE WARRANTY OF THE CAR?
Most cars bought from a licensed dealer in Australia come with a warranty. One of the benefits of buying a brand spanking new car is that if there are defects or faults that pop up during your car's warranty period, the warranty should help cover the cost.
A car warranty typically covers the car and its accessories with anything related to safety, reliability and roadworthiness. Which means it’s not going to cover cosmetic damage or normal wear and tear.
A manufacturer’s new-car warranty usually lasts five to seven years or 100,000km, whichever comes first. Check your warranty to see if you have to keep servicing your car at the dealership you bought if from to maintain the cover. It's likely you will need to make sure your car is always fitted with genuine Original Equipment Manufacter (OEM) parts under the terms of your warranty.
9. WHAT'S THE ONGOING COSTS OF THE NEW CAR?
Don’t get sucked in with a sweet deal if the ongoing costs are going to be too dang much! We’re talking about things like running costs, maintenance and servicing fees, insurance and repairs. It’s a good idea to find out these costs during your research for a new car before you’ve even stepped foot in the dealership.
When researching your new car, it’s important to not only think about if you can afford the car itself, but if you can actually keep it running. Is the car you’re considering typically expensive to service? Are parts hard to find? Is it expensive to insure compared to other cars? Is the paint colour a very particular deep blue that must be custom mixed? If so, maybe ask yourself if you wouldn’t mind going with a normal deep blue.
10. HAVE YOU GOTTEN MULTIPLE COSTS FROM MULTIPLE DEALERS?
Buying a new car is a major financial decision. So, it’s defs not a bad idea to shop around and get quotes from a few dealers to be sure you're getting the best price. Some car manufacturers, such as Tesla, Honda and Mercedes-Benz, have a fixed price sales model. This means that prices will be the same everywhere you go with no room for negotiation. But you can still haggle with dealers if you’re buying cars from manufacturers such as Toyota, Mazda or Kia.
For cars from brands that haven’t adopted the fixed price sales models, it’s definitely worth your time having a squiz at the prices you can get at different dealerships.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE PURCHASING A NEW CAR
Before you head to the dealership, you need to do your homework. If you turn up unsure of what you want, you risk leaving with a sporty red convertible when you really wanted a sensible sedan. Or vice versa! Here’s the prep work you can do to make sure you get the car of your dreams.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Doing your research is your first step. Figure what you need and what you want, and then you can find a car that fits your lifestyle. Once you’ve worked that out, then you can align what you want with your budget.
Luckily for you, you have the whole damn internet at your disposal for this step. A great place to start is reading reviews of cars that are suited to your lifestyle. You could ask Google what the best family cars are, or the best first cars, or even the best cars to take into the Australian wilderness for a number of months. Research like this will help you stack manufacturers and models up against each other by price, features and practicality, and might even uncover makes and models you wouldn’t have considered or even heard about.
CHECK FOR REPLACEMENTS OR FUTURE UPDATES
Once you’ve narrowed down your options and have a good idea of what you want, now is a great time to see if your chosen cars have any significant updates coming up in the next few months. They may even be scheduled to be phased out. Year-to-year updates on cars are usually superficial, including little aesthetic tweaks or added features to the interior. But sometimes these additions will be accompanied by some major updates that you might be keen on, like new engines with improved fuel economy, safety features, entertainment and comfort features or just spiffy tech that you can play with. So it’s worth doing a bit of research to find out if the incoming updates are something you’d be interested in, and you can wait around until those models drop. If the updates aren’t important to you, you can still wait until the new updates drop, because the older versions may have decreased in price.
FOCUS ON THE CAR, NOT THE BRAND
Don’t get caught up on what manufacturer or brand you want, and instead focus on the model of the car. Of course some brands will be more reliable than others, and your research will be able to tell which manufacturers have the best reputation. From there, you can whittle down the models you’re after by features and price. All we’re saying is, don’t get a BMW if a Mazda 3 is going to suit you better. And vice versa.
ENSURE IT'S A CAR THAT YOU'RE CAPABLE OF DRIVING
Some drivers are prohibited from driving certain vehicles. So people with a restricted driver's license, like people on the L, P1 or P2 licences, should be aware of their limitations before they buy a new car. The last thing you want is to be taking your new monster truck around the block for the first time only to be pulled over for driving a vehicle you’re not allowed to. Embarrassing!
Across Australia, provisional licence holders need to steer clear of high performance vehicles. These guys are defined as a vehicle that has;
- a power to tare mass ratio (PMR) of greater than 130 kilowatts per tonne, or
- a significant engine modification, or
- other specifications or data suggesting that it is a high risk for novice drivers.
The only time L and P platers can drive prohibited vehicles is when they’re accompanied by a fully licensed driver, or if they have an exemption from their state’s government. To find out if a certain vehicle falls into the categories above, you can check its specifications either via the owner’s manual, the vehicle’s manufacturer or dealer, or ask a mechanic.
CONSIDER SHOPPING DURING ANY PLATE CLEARANCES OR EOFY SALES
Cars are like skinny jeans. And just like skinny jeans, you’ll find last season’s cars on the sale rack to make room for incoming stock. Sorta.
Dealerships need to accommodate for more stock as manufacturers introduce new and updated models to their range. This means dealerships will often have discounts on a previous year’s model so they can make room for the new models. These are plate clearances - you may be able to score a bargain on your next car in the first few months of the year. The prices will be likely be cheaper when compared to the updated model.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What Do You Need To Know When Buying A New Car?
When buying a new car, there’s a few things you should remember; check the motor dealer licence of your dealership, check the vehicle registration, order a vehicle history report and check if the vehicle is prohibited for P1 and P2 drivers.
What Should You Do Before Getting A New Car?
Before getting a new car, there’s a few things you should be aware of before you take the plunge.
- Do your research of what’s on the market and make a shortlist
- Know what you can afford
- Work out which warranty and insurance is right for you
- Do you want to lease or buy?
- Do you want to trade in your current vehicle or sell it yourself?
What Should You NOT Do When Buying A Car?
Here are the common mistakes you should try and avoid when you're buying a car.
- Not test driving thoroughly
- Not asking for the car you want
- Not reviewing the final sale paperwork carefully
This is general advice only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs (“your personal circumstances”). Before using this advice to decide whether to purchase a product, you should consider your personal circumstances and the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations available from rollininsurance.com.au. Insurance issued by Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 AFSL 227681 trading as Rollin’ Insurance.