How to choose the perfect car… for you
When it comes to buying a new car, people often consider price or performance, but there’s so much more than that involved in choosing the perfect car.
SADLY, THE PERFECT car will never exist despite the millions of dollars, yen, pounds or Euros lavished on developing, building, testing and refining today’s amazing autos. Why? Because we all live different lives and we all want different things from our cars.
Quite simply, one size does not fit all.
But of course you can pick the perfect car for your needs, and that’s where you should begin – with your lifestyle and your requirements.
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Maybe you are a typical family – a couple with two children? Or perhaps you’re young and single and still have hair through which the wind from a roof-down convertible can blow. You might be a retiree who wants a solid and reliable car that will see you well into your winter years.
Do you go camping every weekend, or just use your car to slog along the motorway to work and back? Are you a city dweller, or do you live in the bush and use plenty of dirt roads?
Think about all those factors and any that are unique to you and then you should be able to narrow the choice down firstly to the type of car – sedan, sports utility vehicle (SUV), wagon, hatchback, sports car, off-roader, ute – and then narrow it again to a handful of specific cars.
Clearly price will be a consideration, so group together like priced vehicles. Then you want to think about servicing – do you have a dealer near you for that make of car, is the car known to be reliable, and is it easy to get parts?
Are parts prices expensive? Compare a few items including fuel pump, brake pads, windscreen, because all of these will also factor into the cost of annual insurance costs – generally the more expensive the replacement parts, the more expensive the insurance cover.
Safety is also something to consider, though most of today’s cars are very safe indeed, but look for ABS anti-lock brakes as standard, traction control on front wheel drive cars, and stability control, and the more airbags the better.
Look also at official safety ratings – we cover those in more detail elsewhere.
Many new car buyers agonise about the fuel economy of their car, and that’s fair enough – either petrol or diesel tend to make a dent in the monthly pay packet – but don’t get too hung up about fuel costs because it’s the servicing and parts’ cost, coupled with insurance and depreciation, that form the bulk of the cost of running any car. Fuel seems to be right up there, purely because you have to fill your car up every week or so and you notice it going out of your wallet or bank account, but it’s not the biggest expense.
Trim and equipment options also need to be considered. The car you like might have leather seats, but that might not be practical for your kids or your dog; you might want electric windows all round, a powerful air conditioning system will almost certainly be a must, but do you want to pay extra for climate control rather than a straightforward air con system? Think about these options because they all make a difference when it comes to initial cost, long term ownership, and eventual resale value.
Warranties – the longer the warranty the better, but always check the conditions attached to warranties – who needs to service the car, for example, to keep the warranty valid – and does it cover major parts like the drivetrain for a set number of kilometers or for the life of the warranty.
Extended warranties are often worth considering too, but read the small print carefully because sometimes the extended version is not a manufacturer warranty, but rather added on by the dealer and the conditions may be more onerous and cover not quite so robust. And be mindful that if you’re buying a dealer demonstrator which is, obviously, already registered then the warranty period will already have started.
Once you have all those areas ticked off, next you need to get out on the road and drive the cars on your shortlist. That might seem obvious but it is amazing how few people drive the new car they end up buying.
You also really do need to drive rival cars too so you have some comparison and yardstick to judge each car by. By the time you get to the test drive stage, hopefully you have whittled the choice down to between three and five cars, tops.
Make sure that you get some decent time behind the wheel of each model on your shortlist. A good car dealer will let you take the car for an hour or so – typically you will need to hand over your driving licence to be photocopied before you are handed the keys. If a car dealer will not allow you this time on the road, go elsewhere.