What you need to know about buying a new or used car

What you need to know about buying a new or used car

Buying a new car is not always easy. Some people will always look for a bargain second-hand buy while others swear by cars off the showroom floor. With the help of car journalist and motoring man, Calvin Fisher, we weigh up both sides of the argument, plus share some must-knows.

New car: The Pros

  • Best state it's ever going to be: "This is difficult to ignore. You are getting it 'out of the box' and you are the very first owner."
  • Peace of mind: "With any decent brand, you are fully covered with a motor plan and manufacturer's warranty - built into the price."
  • Less maintenance: "If anything goes wrong, it usually does within the first few months. Other than that, everything will be covered under your motor plan apart from wear and tear items such as bulbs, tyres and oil."
  • A 'greener' car: "These days, new cars feature lean, mean, scientifically engineered machinery - everything is lighter, uses less fuel and is all round much greener. If you feel passionate about the environment, it actually makes more sense to buy a new car than re-using a second-hand one."

calvin inside

  • Customise it: "Everything these days can be optioned to your liking, from paint colour to sound system to parking assistance."
  • Latest technology and features: "Every new model and facelift models come with tonnes of new features that you just can't compare with an older model. And it's not about fancy looks - the magic happens under the bonnet. You get a more powerful engine, a lighter body and better fuel efficiency than ever before."

New car: The Cons

  • Typically more expensive: "Price is determined by brand perception and reputation. There is a big fluctuation in price between a brand-new car and a second-hand car, even if it just has a few hundred or thousand kilometres on the clock. For      example, at September 2014, a white Volkswagen Polo 2014: 1,4L will cost you R189 900 new and a two-year old model R169 000**. That means a depreciation in price of 11% in two years.
  • Added tax: "Carbon tax is calculated on a car's carbon consumption so the bigger      your car's engine, the more you'll pay."
  • Optional features add further costs: "It's nice to option a car to your liking. Just remember: if you go to town, these extras can cost up to 20% of the price - which you won't get back if you resell."
  • It is not an appreciating asset: "The old saying is true - your car will drop in value as soon as it leaves the showroom floor."

Second-hand car: Pros

  • A better price: "Second-hand cars are much cheaper than new cars as the previous owner has absorbed some of the depreciation, which means lower financing costs."
  • Get a bargain: "You can get a much higher spec car second-hand than new. Just be sure to buy from a reputable dealership."
  • No additional taxes are payable: "The selling price is all you pay."
  • Motor plan and warranty: "If you buy a car less than five years old, you could still benefit from the balance of the motor plan and warranty which will be transferred with the car."
  • Wider choice: "You'll find a wide variety of places to shop for second-hand cars, from auctions to dealerships, from friends' cars to websites."

Second-hand car: Cons

  • You never really know what you're getting: "Get a full service history and have the car's roadworthy test done by the AA. Other than that you'll have to take the seller's word for it that it hasn't been in a major accident or had serious troubles."
  • If out of warranty and motor plan: "You'll have no guarantee that nothing will go wrong at a later stage. Any problems will result in additional repair and maintenance costs if the car is out of warranty and its service plan has expired. This could get quite expensive."
  • What you see is what you get: "With a used car, you can't add optional extras and safety features."

Calvin's tips:

  • Always take note of, and act on, the lights on your dash. Don't ignore it, go straight to your dealer.
  • Establish a relationship with your dealer and always go to the same one. It pays to get to know people there to help you in case something goes wrong or you have any worries or questions. That's what motor plans are for.
  • Read your manual: it's not just for decoration; it will guide you on really looking after your car and keeping it in top condition.
  • Under the new Consumer Protection Act, the seller is forced to declare any known defect of a used car to a potential buyer.
  • If you are interested in a certain brand or model car, familiarise yourself with the car and its reputation. Have a look at sites like Autotrader to get average prices and read online forums to see if there are any common niggles that people are talking about.

Calvin Fisher (@Calvin_Fisher) is the deputy editor of Top Gear Magazine SA.

Take a look here for other articles from Santam that will give you further insight on what you need to know about buying a car.

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