Other than your house, your car is probably one of the most expensive things that you own. It’s also one of the most necessary things for a busy family, especially if you have a regular commute.
The time may come when you need to replace your old faithful car with something more suitable for your family. You can put it off for as long as you like, but your bank account is already whimpering.
Unfortunately, while it would be lovely to say that you can actually buy a car for just a few quid and it’ll be perfectly fine and definitely not stolen or dodgy in any way, you will have to cough up some cash.
But how can you soften the blow to your bank account and make sure that you get the right motor for the price?
That’s where this article comes in. Spoiler alert, you can expect a lot of talk about doing your research before you buy.
Do You Need a New Car?
The best way to save money on your new car is just not to buy one in the first place. However, no car can last forever, so when you see the signs, it’ll be time to cough up.
First things first, is your car safe and legal to drive? Your yearly MOT and service will identify problems with your vehicle that need to be fixed for it to be roadworthy. If your car fails its MOT, it’s not necessarily a sign that the car is kaput. But pay attention to the MOT results and what repairs crop up again and again.
If your car dramatically fails every year and needs expensive repairs to be roadworthy, you might be better off getting a new one. This is a sign that your car is wearing out too quickly and between checkups, it might not be safe to drive. Another sign is if your car regularly breaks down or you find yourself repeatedly taking it to the mechanic outside of routine maintenance.
A worn-out car is expensive to run and probably not safe to drive. It might also become more expensive to insure, adding to its cost.
On a similar note, a car in this state often won’t look great. True, you might not drive a car for its looks, but a rusty vehicle or one with patches where the panels or doors have been replaced just looks scruffy. It’s even worse if you use your car for work, as it reflects on your professionalism.
Finally, there are some situations where, even if your car runs okay and looks okay, you might consider getting a new one. For example, if your family is growing, your car might need to be upgraded to a larger model so that you can fit the kids (and everything else that comes with them) into the car.
As your family grows and changes, its needs will grow and change as well. Another potential situation is that you need two vehicles for your family instead of just one, especially in a two-parent household where you need to think about work commutes, school commutes, and grocery runs during the week.
Setting a Budget
If you don’t want to break the bank, you need to pay attention to how big a hit your balance can take. Most people have to take out a loan to buy a vehicle, or they pay in installments (although this can sometimes be more expensive in the long run, so compare prices with an eagle eye).
Ideally, when taking out a loan, you want to pay as little interest as possible. So, check your finances and work out what you can afford, either as a lump sum or as regular loan payments. A good credit can help you to find loans that you can more easily afford to pay off.
When you set a budget like this, it immediately narrows down your choices and makes picking a car more simple. If you can’t afford it, don’t even consider it.
You also need to measure your budget up against what you need from your car and what you want. Unfortunately, you might not be able to cover all of your wants, but hopefully, your budget can net you a car that covers your needs.
Setting a budget early prevents you from overspending and can reduce any money worries that might crop up. Everything is expensive, and the cost of living is so high that you don’t want to add to your financial burden if you can absolutely help it.
When setting a budget, factor in running costs and insurance as well. Nobody wants the nasty surprise of sky-high insurance premiums and road tax.
New or Used Cars?
The best way to save money when buying a car is to buy a used car. No, this doesn’t mean some old banger that’s two miles away from turning itself into scrap. A car with a couple of years and a few thousand miles on the clock is perfect, as it’s still relatively reliable and much cheaper than a brand-new car.
Whether you’re buying a new car or a used car, try to use a car dealership that offers a couple of years of warranty and services. This means that, even if your vehicle does need a little TLC, you have no reason not to keep it well-maintained so it runs perfectly.
Some dealerships will also allow you to test-drive the vehicle, so you can get a feel for it. Even if you’ve done all your research and narrowed it down to a few car choices, the test drive can be the deciding factor for you.
Finally, do your best to haggle. A lot of dealerships expect a degree of haggling, although you don’t want to be insulting. If you can shave a bit off the price or get something extra added in, you’ll thank yourself later.
Believe it or not, not everyone is an expert in all things mechanical. If cars aren’t your thing, you might feel overwhelmed and worried that you’ll spend all that money on something that isn’t right for your family.
The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. In fact, with a significant purchase, it’s a good idea to look for all the advice you can get.
If you have friends or family who are more car-savvy than you, ask for their advice and input. Most people who are interested in cars are also interested in talking about cars, so you should find that they’re willing to share their opinions.
You do need to bear in mind that it’s still your money and your future car, so set some boundaries as well. Don’t just buy a car because your friend likes it, but consider your circumstances and budget as well.
Another option is to use a car checker or car guide, especially when you’ve narrowed down your choices to a select few. This is very important when getting a used car because even if it looks fine, you don’t know its full history. This includes unreported accidents, maintenance history, or a sordid past as a taxi, or anything else that might concern you.
Yes, this might all sound like a lot of work, but if you make the right decision when buying your car, it can make a massive difference in your life for the next few years. So, do the research now and save yourself pain in the future.