Top tips to ensure you get the most out of visiting a new car showroom when buying your new car.

LET’S NOT BEAT AROUND the bush here, new car showrooms are designed to intimidate you. The current crop of showrooms popping up, seem to have been designed by blokes in skivvies and packed full of very expensive machinery, leather lounges, espresso machines and reveal rooms, yes, they’re a thing, and let’s not forget sales staff waiting to pick your pocket, figuratively speaking, anyway. Some, not all of them.

Because most of us only ever set foot in a new car showroom once in a blue moon, the whole process of buying a new car from a dealer can be pretty daunting. So, we’ve come up with a set of top tips that should help familiarise you with the process, and reduce some of the stress associated with buying a new car from a dealership.


It wasn’t all that long ago that the only way you could read about and compare different cars was to pick up a magazine or a newspaper. And, if you weren’t a subscriber or keen on leafing through back issues at the library of magazines like Wheels or MOTOR, well, you were kind of stuck. Of course, you could have wandered into a dealership and let the dealer tell you all about the car you were thinking about…

But, thanks to the internet, and websites like Practical Motoring, you can do all of your new car research without leaving the house. And for free, too. Indeed, in 2013 more people researched their new car online than anywhere else.

Being able to research your new car, or at least work out a shortlist of vehicles, means you’ll be able to work out exactly which model in a maker’s line-up you’re keen on, you’ll also be able to decide on the engine, drivetrain (all-wheel drive Vs front-wheel drive in the case of some SUVs).


Researching your new car online means you’ll know when a car maker is looking to introduce a new model, too, and that means if you get your timing right you’ll be able to buy during runout and potentially save a few dollars.

In the car

So, you’ve done your research and know exactly which new car you want to buy, and you’ve headed along to the dealership to take a look at it in the metal. Great. Now don’t just wander around the outside and stab a toe at the tyres, no, ask the dealer to open the thing up, if it isn’t already unlocked, and sit inside it. Set the seat up to suit yourself, adjust the mirrors and play around with the air-con and audio control. Then climb in the back and see how much room there is. If you’ve got kids, go and grab your childseat and ask the dealer if you can fit it to get a better feel for how this particular car will suit your family.

And don’t forget to ask the dealer whether everything you’re looking at it in the demo model is standard. You could fall in love with the touch-screen sat-nav unit only to discover it’s a $1200 cost option, and so on.

Take a look at our seven steps to choosing a new family car article for advice on how to pick the right car for your family.

Go for a drive

Okay, let’s consider that you’ve crawled all over the car, checked out the boot, and made sure there’s enough room for the kids and all their stuff, now you want to get a feel for how it drives.

You want to make sure the car they’re going to let you drive is the same one you’re interested in buying, no point testing the diesel model if it’s the petrol-powered version that you’ve got your heart set on. And, if they don’t have the exact specification car you want to buy, then make sure it at least has the same engine and gearbox as the one you want.

And if you can’t take the car you want to test for a drive, then see if the right spec model is available at another dealership.

In the old days the dealer would only really let you take the car for a ‘test drive’ around the block, although I do remember a sales rep letting my old man take a Subaru Liberty for a ‘test drive’ around Mount Panorama… Anyway, just driving around the block isn’t enough, so, make sure you take the car for as long a drive as possible. Indeed, some dealerships allow a 24-hour test drive, meaning you can take the car home and really get comfortable with it. That’s great because it means you’ll get to see what the car you’re thinking of buying feels like on the roads around your house.

For more on how to test drive a new car, take a look at our buying a new car: practical motoring guide.

Dealing with the dealer

Having bought a handful of new cars, I’ve come across some absolutely fantastic car dealers that couldn’t do enough to help, and others who I could almost feel, metaphorically speaking, trying to tease my wallet out of my pocket. The key thing to remember when dealing with new car dealers is that you’re in control. You don’t have to buy your car from them.

Quite often you’ll strike a dealer that encourages you to spend more, to add window tinting and, heaven forbid, paint protection. If you’ve got a budget, stick to it. Don’t let them pressure you into spending more – that’s their job. So, refer back to the first hint and make sure you’ve done your research – know exactly what car and equipment level you want.

Don’t think I’m suggesting you should be hostile towards the dealer, that won’t get you anywhere. No, just be yourself, but do be firm with them if you can feel they’re pushing you too much.

Take your time

If you’re not 100% comfortable with the car you’ve been looking at, or want 24-hours to think about it, then take your time, and don’t let the dealer push you into buying the car there and then. That said, if you’re happy and you want to go ahead, get ready to start haggling with them, especially if you’re looking at a car in run out.

Make sure the dealer spells out in detail what you’ll be getting, meaning you want a nice, detailed quote to ensure you don’t misunderstand something and that you will actually be getting everything you want at the price you want. If you want to know more about financing a new car, then read our article on how to buy a car on finance.

In the end, though, make sure you enjoy the process of buying your new car. You’ll likely be spending a small fortune on the thing, so make sure you enjoy it.



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1 comment

  1. Your advice works. I researched for months, including a short list of the competitor’s cars. I made sure the sales guy knew that I was considering two other brands. I got a decent discount without being a “fleet” buyer. I had a rock bottom price in mind that was realistic, not below the cost of the vehicle. Previous advice on this site about dealer delivery charges being mostly profit was most helpful! I put in an offer, got a counter offer but I refused to blink. I was surprised that I got away with it but it does show that it is a buyer’s market.

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