With a bit of research ahead of time – it’s time to go car shopping! With your financing already in place you can buy your dream car as soon as you see it.
But before you get out there, do your homework. You don’t want to be seduced by the shiny wheels that won’t be practical. Go online, figure out what you’re looking for, what you can afford, and get your finance sorted
Whether you purchase from a dealer or a private seller, you’ll want to shop around to make sure that you get the best price. Making a list of what you want in your car and deciding on new or used before you set out to buy can keep you on track.
Do you buy a new or used car?
For most people, buying a new car is the height of pure luxury. But if you do have a choice, make sure you consider the pros and cons of both options.
Benefits of buying a used car
The three most important factors in buying a used car are reliability, safety and availability. Vehicles under the two-year mark in age will have a cost closer to its initial purchase price. Typically, a two or three-year-old car with low kilometres is the best value.
The driving habits of the previous owner will far outweigh the professional reviews for the vehicle so be sure to have the car professionally safety checked or, use our Inspecting a used car checklist.
‘Prestigious’ models often have cheaper rivals that will be a better value and much more reliable. If you find the right one, you can be driving your good quality used car for years to come at a much cheaper price than a new car.
Benefits of buying a new car
With a brand new car you can order exactly what you want from the dealership. Choose the colour, customised options and accessories. A new car won’t have been in an accident or badly treated by a previous owner. The car’ll come with a warranty that will typically cover anything major for around three years.
Lower maintenance costs, better fuel efficiency, the latest tech features and customisation can make a new car an attractive option.
The downside of buying new is paying premium high prices. Cars lose value as soon as you drive them off the car yard so do the maths before you buy new to see if it’s worth it.
Extended warranties cover things that the factory warranty won’t. These can be good if you’re buying a brand new expensive car – e.g. a European model that costs a lot to fix. Extended warranties do give you peace of mind. But often they’re just an expensive added extra that won’t end up saving you money.
If you do buy one, remember to shop around – you don’t have to buy this from the dealer, but do make sure it’s from a reputable company. And negotiate!
Buying New Zealand ‘new’ versus imported models
If you buy NZ ‘new’ it means the car hasn’t been driven before arriving in NZ (not made in NZ). So the vehicle will have a complete service history, and manuals etc. If you buy imported, you’ll sometimes have to pay extra ‘on road’ charges. But also, you won’t know the car’s history. It’s a risk, but all imported cars are inspected and serviced before being sold, and they’re usually a good deal.
Tips for buying a car
Spending time researching so you know what you’re looking for and how much the car you want should cost. Google the cars you like. Most websites also have helpful reviews and detailed model information such petrol efficiency, safety ratings and reviews. Check out sites like rightcar motorweb and The AA’s redbook.
Read the reviews
Once you’ve chosen your car, or are deciding between two models, read the reviews. They’ll give you the low down on the car and might flag problems you hadn’t counted on. Also find out the car’s safety rating, reliability and fuel economy.
You’ve found a car you like
Do your homework and ask questions before you agree to go for a test drive. If something about the car doesn’t match the ad once you see it, be careful – you might be buying someone else’s problem.
Questions to ask the seller
- Why they are selling the car?
- How many kilometres are on the clock?
- How many owners has the car had and are there complete service records?
- Have had any issues with the vehicle?
- What has their day-to-day use of the car been like?
- Has it been in an accident?
- How old are the tires?
- When was the oil last changed?
- When were the breaks last maintained?
Inspecting a used car
Before you hop in and go for a spin, give it a good once over using our Inspecting a used car checklist. Download the checklist and take a copy along with you when you go to inspect the car.
Also make sure you read our tips on things to check before buying a used car.
You may be an expert on cars, which puts you ahead of the game. If not, make sure you have someone with you, or take it to a professional, to give it a good once over before you make an offer. A full pre-purchase safety inspection will cost around $120.
The best way to test drive a car
Don’t just do a quick drive around the block. You should spend around half an hour in the car. Think about how you would drive it every day and put it through its paces. Parallel park a lot? Give it a go to see what visibility and tight steering is like.
Get it on the motorway and accelerate into traffic to make sure it has some zip. Take your hands off the steering wheel for a second. Does it drift? If so then the car’s alignment might be off. Turn the radio off to make sure that you can hear any suspicious sounds. Do a couple of stops to make sure the brakes are in shape. Finally, make sure lights work, signals indicate and that cruise control is functioning. Make a note of any smells that could indicate an oil leak.
Download our Inspecting a used car checklist to take with you when inspecting and tips for things to check when doing a test drive.
If you’re under 25 you might not be able to take the car out unless it’s insured for youth drivers. Make sure you clear this with the seller. They also might need to see your driver’s license.
Getting the best deal with car dealers
It’s helpful to understand how car dealers work. As the middle people in the deal, car dealers make money on mark ups on their cars. For most vehicles, the sticker price is not the actual price the dealer paid for the car. They also take a cut of extra benefits they sell you, like service contracts and vehicle service plans.
Can you negotiate with car dealers?
Yes! It can be intimidating to negotiate with a car dealer at first, but once you get into it, have a bit of fun. See more tips for negotiating the best price on used cars and trade ins here.
Get clicking to find your car
Here are some of the biggest places to buy and sell vehicles online in New Zealand:
- Trade Me has a large selection of used cars
- Autotrader offer new and used cars
- Car auctions like Turners can offer good value
- The Ellerslie Car Fair in Auckland is the largest in the country
Ready to buy?
Just a couple more things before you get behind the wheel:
- Get car insurance – you don’t want to drive off without it.
- Register the vehicle in your name. Fill in a change of ownership online at VTNZ.
All done? Congratulations, you’re ready to hit the road.