By Motoring Expert Elise Elliott
I like to think I keep my cool behind the wheel of any car I test drive. But I confess I was a little nervous when handed the keys to the latest Rolls-Royce Ghost Extended. Its price tag? (Cue Dr Evil’s voice) One million dollars! Okay, most of us drive around in vehicles a fraction of that price but for most people, they remain the second most expensive life purchase after buying a home. So, what are ways to save money when splashing out on a car?
NEW vs. USED
There are pros and cons to buying both types of vehicles. One of the advantages of buying new is the fact your car will likely come with a full warranty and, often, capped price servicing. You will also have a vehicle with the exact specifications you desire. There will be neither kilometres on the clock nor any other driver history which should mean fewer “surprises” down the track. Most importantly, new cars are kitted out with all the latest safety features.
The advantages of used cars? For starters, they’re obviously cheaper. The single biggest individual cost of a car is not fuel, but depreciation, which starts the minute you slap on your seatbelt and drive off the dealer’s lot into the sunset. On average, cars depreciate 15 per cent a year.
When buying a used car, consider one around four years old for several reasons. Cars depreciate the most in the first three to four years of their lives. Many of them will have been driven, on average, only about 50,000km, which is not a lot. If you’re lucky some may still be under warranty and possess up-to-date tech. And plenty of examples are available at this age as most people who lease cars do so for four years before selling them.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The best time to buy a car is at the end of the financial year — and as close to June 30 as possible as dealers are often desperate to record sales. Another good time to buy is the end of the calendar year as dealers will be wanting to move on to next year’s model. And if these dates don’t suit, hold out to the end of the month as dealers often have regular sales targets to meet.
If buying new, consider a car near the end of its model life. You will secure a good deal as sellers will be anxious to get rid of old versions. And don’t be too fussy about colour, trim and features; you’ll secure a better deal if you buy a car the dealer has in stock as they’ve already paid for it.
You’d put hours of research into finding the perfect pair of jeans, bikini or shoes, right?! Why not apply the same effort to this massive purchase? First, do your research online. Then, visit a number of different car yards and ask each for their best deal. Book in test drives and makes sure they occur back-to-back because it’s really easy to forget the feel of a car. You’d never test perfumes on different days.
Be wary: Some dealers might give you a low-interest rate when it comes to financing, but won’t budge on the new car price. Others will negotiate with you on price, but be inflexible on any trade-in.
Drag along a wing person, too. It pays to have an impartial and protective friend onboard when making such an important decision.
It sounds scary and corporate, I know. But think of it like a home loan for your car. A typical arrangement is a four-year lease and at the end of it you own 50 per cent of the car. This is worth considering because your finance payments are only based on 50 per cent of the purchase price of the car. Additionally, the interest rate is fixed when you start the lease so it doesn’t vary during the life of the loan.
Another type of lease to consider is a novated lease where your car repayments are taken out of your pre-tax salary — obviously with the green light from your employer. Consider it as a form of salary sacrificing, one which reduces your taxable income.
I secretly love ‘70s car colours: Continental Orange, Bitter Chocolate, Calypso Coral and Apple Green to name a few. Sadly the so-called “Melbourne Palate” of sober colours like black, grey, silver and white are the new black. The popularity of these hues comes down to resale value. Colour has an impact on what your car may be worth when it comes time to sell so consider safer colours for the long term value of your car.
For the record, the Roller I drove came in Bohemian Red — a kind of rich, metallic, deep burgundy. You’ll be pleased to know I returned the luxe vehicle in one piece.