Questions to ask before buying your next car

August 2015

Buying a car – either new or used – is not an easy decision. Where do you even start? We’ve put together a list of questions to ask yourself before you buy to ensure the car you take home serves you well for many years.

What do you need – or want – that your current car doesn’t have? 
If you are upgrading it helps to ask yourself what you don’t like about your current car, or what it lacks that you would like. Would you prefer a different type of gearbox? Do you wish you had a sunroof, or is the ground clearance not enough? Use the answers to paint a picture of what you want from your next vehicle.

How much can you afford to spend?
Work on two numbers: how much you would like to spend and what your absolute limit is. Whether you’re buying on finance or with cash, make sure you know exactly how much you can spend.  Also remember that insurance needs to be factored into your budget. Do some research and get competitive quotes on the vehicle you are thinking of buying so you can get an idea of how much extra you’ll be paying. 

You should also investigate the costs of maintaining the vehicle. Ask yourself how much you can spend on fuel every month and what sort of fuel economy you are aiming for. What will replacement tyres and services cost? Check whether a service or maintenance plan is available; it might cost a bit more upfront, but could save you money in the long run.

Where will you be driving?
Consider the type of driving you’ll be doing. Long distance, open-road driving would be great in a comfortable diesel, but town-based driving might be better suited to a compact, petrol-engine runabout. An automatic will be perfect if you sit in traffic every day, a manual will be more fun if you enjoy the open road.

You should also consider the car your partner drives. Do you need an SUV to make up for his or her convertible?

What features does the car need?
Think about what you are going to use the car for. A sales representative might need a large boot, while someone who regularly visits the bushveld will want a car with better ground clearance and an elevated driving position. If you are part of a lift club, how many school bags can you fit into the boot? Make sure the car you buy measures up to these practical requirements; if you buy a two-seater sports coupe because you’ve wanted one your whole life, how are you going to transport five school children? You might like the looks, but do you really need an enormous bakkie just to drive to meetings?

Finance terms and residuals 
If you can’t buy cash, make sure you know the ins and outs of the finance portion of the deal. Do you have the cash for a deposit? For how long are you prepared to pay the vehicle off? When, during that time period, would you potentially trade in? Should you opt for a residual, and if you do, how will you pay it off? 

If you can keep your mileage below the 25 000 km annual average, and in doing so increase the vehicle’s trade-in value, a residual will allow you to spend less per month and trade in with enough money in the car to cover the higher capital balance. However, higher-than-average mileage will decrease the trade-in value, and a residual could pose a problem down the line. Remember that a ‘balloon payment’ has to be paid at the end of your finance term, so if you are buying a vehicle with no intention to sell, a residual would be a bad idea as the vehicle would ultimately cost you more overall. Make an informed financial decision.

There are over 4 000 different new passenger and light commercial vehicles on sale in South Africa today so do your homework, test drive your favourites, and ensure the one you choose ticks all the right boxes for you.

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