cars on sale

Put your foot down if you want to drive a bargain

The new ‘63′ number plate registration hit the roads this September, giving motorists another reason to buy a new car. New car sales have risen sharply this year, with total sales expected to pass 2.2 million in 2013, the highest number since 2008, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The registration plate change also creates a positive knock-on effect in the used car market, with second-hand sales rising as new buyers offload their old motors.

Whether you’re buying a new or used car, there are plenty of bargains out there, provided you keep your eye on the road. Start by drawing up a checklist of everything you need in a car. Will you be doing long motorway journeys or do you just want a local runabout? Do you need a big boot? How many doors should it have?

Then head off to websites such as Whatcar.com, Autotrader.co.uk, Carbuyer.co.uk and Buyacar.co.uk to see what’s available and read customer reviews. Don’t just look at the price tag on the vehicle, calculate whether you can afford to insure and run it as well.

Visit a comparison site to compare insurance costs for different vehicles, and compare fuel efficiency and tax status at government website http://carfueldata.direct.gov.uk. A new car may actually turn out to be cheaper in the longer run, because fuel and insurance costs are lower.

A brand-new Peugeot 208 costs £1,030 a year to run on average, but a 5-year old model of the same vehicle costs £1,778 a year, or £748 more. Similarly, running a new Ford Fiesta costs £1,134 a year, compared to £1,673 for a 5-year old model, an extra £539, according to new research from MoneySupermarket.com.

Whether you’re buying new or second-hand, don’t meekly accept the first price the dealer quotes. The average car buyer saves £842 by haggling, according to new research from Hitachi Personal Finance. 8 out of 10 buyers who haggled got a reduction on the sale price, while 3 out of 10 got extras such as sat-nav, metallic paint or alloys.

If you’re paying cash upfront, you’re in a stronger position to haggle. If not, you should shop around for the best finance deal. This involves some legwork, comparing rates on personal loans and forecourt finance, and alternative forms of funding, such as personal contract purchase (PCP). But it is worth doing before you sit down with a car salesman, who might otherwise talk you into buying their more costly finance package.

Finally, if you’re looking for reliability, think Japan. Japanese car manufacturers fill 7 out of the top 10 places in the What Car?’ reliability list, led by Honda and Suzuki. Hyundai, Subaru, Toyota, Lexus, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, Ford and Mazda complete the reliability list. Bad news for Bentley drivers. Some 86% of Bentleys suffer a problem each year, making it Britain’s least dependable car maker.

Remember that next time you wish your budget ran to a Bentley.