Beating the System
There are three ways to buy new, either from a franchised dealer, via a broker or importing the car yourself. I tell you what's what so you can decide on the best buy for you. Use our helpful car price comparrison tool to find out today's best new car deals.
Buying from a Franchised Dealer
If you are a good negotiator, during comparatively slack months such as December you might get 10% to 12% off 'list price'. The best way to achieve this is to know precisely what the 'on-the-road' price of the car should be, take off the cost of Vehicle Excise Duty and the £50 First Registration tax, then subtract 15% from the remainder. On the premise that 3%-5% profit is better than no profit at all, and the car is in stock, many dealers will play ball, particularly towards the end of the month.
On the other hand, where they have more customers than cars, they won't play this game. You are unlikely to get more than 4% or 5% off a car you have to order and then wait several months for.
If you have a car you want to part-exchange for a new one, it's no good getting a decent discount then giving it all back by accepting too little for your trade-in.
Be well aware of what your existing car is worth. Compare it with similar models of similar age and mileage that the dealer has for sale, and don't accept less than £1,500 or 15% (whichever is the greater) less than the sticker price on those cars. This £1,500 or 15% may look a lot, but remember the dealer will usually have to negotiate downwards from sticker prices when selling his used stock, and then has to warrant the cars for six months.
Also remember, what you get for your part-exchange is not the most important factor. The 'cost to switch' is. Compare the total financial outlay involved in one deal compared to another.
For example, dealer 'A' has a new Fiesta that lists at £15,000. He offers you £4,000 for your part exchange, but no discount on the Fiesta, so the cost to switch is £11,000.
Dealer 'B' has a new Polo that lists at £15,000. He offers you £3,500 for your part exchange, plus £1,000 off the price of the Polo. The cost to switch is therefore £10,500, so the Polo is £500 cheaper than the Mondeo even though you get less for your part exchange.
Is the Fiesta worth £500 more than the Polo? Or can you use the Polo deal to chip £500 or more off the price of the Fiesta?
This is the way you should be thinking. It's not hard, is it?
Buying via a Broker
If you have no part-exchange this is usually the cheapest, most hassle-free way of buying new.
Brokers do the work for you, making deals with UK dealers that enable them to obtain volume discounts from manufacturers. Or they simply broker unsold stock. You can't always get every model in every colour via a broker. And discounts are always best for cars in stock.
But, I've seen as much as £10,500 off a new Mercedes SL, for example. Though maybe not the best colour. Often dealers have to shift stock and cancelled orders to make a quarterly target. And the best way to get them gone is to put them out via brokers.
On more ordinary cars, discounts of £2,000 - £5,000 are typical, particularly if the model is on run-out before a facelift or new model arrives in the showrooms.
But always the best way to save the most money is to be open-minded. Like shopping in a market, buy the best available at the lowest price rather than have a fixed idea of exactly what you want.
Try drivethedeal.com for great prices on loads of UK cars.
Importing or Buying from an Import Dealer
Unless the car is a very expensive model, importing yourself is not viable these days because British buyers have woken up and forced the true price of UK cars down to levels often below those in mainland Europe.
However, sometimes supersites like Motorpoint, Trade Sales and specialists like MotorProvider can manage to buy batches of European-supplied cars destined for other markets that are cheaper.
Just make sure you check exactly what warranty the car comes with and how long that warranty has to run.
And be aware that when you come to sell your import, no one will give you as much for it as for a UK supplied car.
What Sort Of Car?
Think very carefully about what you really need and whether you will be able to afford the running expenses of the type of car you choose. There is no point in a 2+2 if it's your only car and you have two teenage children 6' tall and still growing. Equally, there's no point in buying more car than you need. If you've only got two kids, do you really need a huge SUV that's going to cost lots in tax?
On the other hand a car is a pleasure and a statement, so if that's what you want and you don't mind spending the money, go for it.
SUVs are all the rage these days, mainly because they're perceived to cope well with road humps. A petrol-engined version will cost you at least 30% more in fuel than a diesel. Yet a diesel may be much more expensive to maintain. And is the expense of maintaining a four-wheel-drive justified by not having to slow down so much before running over a sleeping policeman? Some SUVs are only part-time 4x4s. Some are available with two-wheel drive only.
Then again, if you've got six kids, do you go for a 7-seater or an MPV 4x4? Check the way the seats fold first. On some, the rearmost seats are a single bench, so you can't fold one of them away to create more luggage capacity when travelling six-up.
What Make and Model Of Car?
Britain is probably the most car-snobbish country in the world. This is both a burden and a benefit. It always costs more to 'buy into' a prestige brand. But after three years you may end up no worse off. You'll have enjoyed the enhanced status the car has bestowed upon you. It will be much easier to sell. And when you do the sums you could find it cost you less than a run-of-the-mill motor.
A typical example of this is the FIAT 500, five-year-old examples of which lost only £4,000 of their original price in six years.