Never fight with your partner the morning you go to buy a new car

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I watched the trickle of sweat run down the side of my baby boy’s head and I knew I’d reached my limit. I always knew I had one, I just didn’t know I would reach it backing out of an Ikea car park.

I’ll set the scene: Queensland – summertime – at least 36 degrees in the shade. My 7 year old station wagon’s air-conditioning had officially gone on strike and I had a two hour journey in front of me with three very agitated and overtired children in the backseat. In addition to this, not only was my air-conditioning not working, it was in full attack mode, actively blowing hot air at me even though I had turned it off. Just to keep things fun, the driver’s side electric window was being completely unpredictable and opening and closing intermittently.

So there I was – 3 children in the car, 40 degree hot hair blowing directly in my face much like a hairdryer, my window steadfastly refusing to budge and a $2000 bill on the cards to fix a $2000 car.  A couple of meltdowns and over exaggerated hand gestures later, and we both agreed, it was time to bite the bullet and get another car.

But having made some poor decisions when buying cars in the past, I really made sure I had done my homework this time. In fact I did it so well I can pass some of my knowledge onto you. But before you read it remember that it does not constitute actual financial planning or advice. You really need to get your own independent advice to ensure you make the best decision.

Bearing that in mind, here’s a few things I have learned:

– Drive every make and model that you like, and drive it some distance, not just around the block. It’s the only way to be sure you really love the car and the way it drives. Bonus tip – check out the radio and the air con – trust me on that one.

– Decide how you are going to pay for the car – given the average price of new and late model cars most consumers finance their purchases in one way or another. Remember salespeople want to move cars so they have all sorts of cool rate programs up their sleeves to lure you in.  But do your sums on this – if you can’t, get some help (consult your tax agent – they are best equipped to give you the right advice for your EXACT situation.)

– Do not walk into a showroom and ask them to show you all the white cars.


– Consider a range of options (and not just rate) that help you purchase with comfort and confidence.  If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

– When looking at finance remember to consider monthly fees, establishment fees, early termination fees, and any other fees that add to the cost. Don’t be fooled by a cheap rate, it’s the repayments that tell the truth. Also remember that I am not a professional. Just a person who’s been through this.

– The dealership or financial institution must offer you insurance.  Insurance is very personal.  What you decide is not what someone else may decide.  Only you know the risk or risks you are prepared to take. So think about insurance carefully.

– Make sure you and your partner have not had a huge argument in the 24 hour period before shopping for a car.

– Accessories complement your car and make it truly yours.  You can finance accessories or you can pay cash.  Once again, the rate programs may lead you to this answer, but understand their costs and how much those costs will affect your repayments. Do not get lured into accessories you don’t need. (This is a mantra I have learned to repeat to myself about a close call with roof racks)

– Extending your new vehicle or statutory warranty is as personal as whether you buy or decline insurance. What you need to know is, “What am I covered for?” and “What do I need to do to remain covered?  Do not believe a salesperson who says that the extended warranty covers everything.

– Keep your eyes open, and take your time.

– Do not take your children shopping for a car when they have been cooped up all day.

I learned a lot in my quest to find a new car and after years or buying other people’s problems and crunching the numbers, we quickly realised the only brand new vehicle we could afford at that stage was of the small variety. And when I say small, I mean sardines probably had a better deal than we did when the Golden Retriever joined the 5 of us on a trip to the beach, but we did it.

It was economical, less likely to induce heat stroke than our previous vehicle, it’s reliable, safe and in the end, perfect for us.

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Any car purchasing tips?