When you take a car out for a test drive you should not be fobbed off with a spin around the block. Give it a good workout. Try to take the car out on your own. Some dealers will offer 24–72 hour test drives. If this is not possible and you find that the salesperson cannot keep quiet during the drive, ask them (politely) to let you evaluate the car without being distracted. You should get into learner driver territory on the housing estates, etc. Put the car through a simulated driving lesson. Drive it around sharp junctions and go through the reversing exercises. Check out everything you would be expecting your client to cope with. If you have a salesperson with you, ask them to drive for a short period so you can look at the situation from the instructor’s seat. Use the checklist to make sure the car will fit the bill.
This choice will be influenced by whether you want to own your car outright or whether you are happy to lease it off a company – in effect renting the vehicle. If you wish to buy the car you will need to choose whether you want to pay in one cash payment, arrange a loan or pay by instalments to a finance company. You may be offered an instalment plan at the garage but, as this is quite a competitive market, before signing any agreement, shop around for the best deal. Some credit card companies have 0% offers for six to nine months. If you could pay this back within the time, it’s a cheap loan. In order to appreciate how much the deal is going to cost, look at the annual percentage rate (APR) and the total amount repayable. Do not be misled by the flat rate which is often quoted by dealers. Dealers may be prepared to haggle over the APR. Remember that, when you use hire purchase, you will not own the car until the final payment has been made, so you will not be able to sell it without the agreement of the finance company. On the other hand, if you do buy under a hire-purchase scheme and anything goes wrong with the car, the lender is jointly responsible with the dealer for fixing it.
If you buy, you will be able to: use the car over an unlimited number of miles; have the choice as to whether you change your cars more frequently; and obtain cheaper insurance because your choice will not be limited by a contract with a hire firm. You must also consider: the car’s depreciation over the time you expect to keep it; the problems of selling a car with high mileage; the cost of purchasing and fitting dual controls; the cost of servicing the car; and the problems of having no substitute vehicle if it breaks down.
If you hire you may: have to pay an additional fee if you exceed the contract’s mileage limit; have to keep the car for the extent of the contract period; have the servicing, road fund licence, tyres, insurance, breakdown cover and mechanical repairs included in the contract fee; and receive a replacement car with 24 hours in the event of a no-fault accident or long-term mechanical problem.
But do: read the contract’s terms and conditions carefully; and consider the implications of loss of income you are if incapacitated through illness or injury or if you are financing your car by regular repayments. Consider taking out an insurance policy to cover such an eventuality. Buying a new car is a massive investment for most people, and we suggest you consider all the options very carefully. We do not have the space in this article to give you more than a brief outline of financing the purchase of a car. If you subscribe to the Which? website you will find totally unbiased, up-to-date and very useful information on cars and how to buy them. Which? reports are unbiased because they do not take any adverts or become involved commercially in any way with manufacturers or other commercial organisations. They are 100% for the consumer, which is unique.
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