The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Car

Nowadays, having a car is a necessity in everyday life. Whether it’s for commuting to work, going to your local food store or visiting your family in another town, there’s no denying that having a car makes your life easier. Other than the expense of buying a home, owning a car is typically the second largest expense you will have in your lifetime and since it is a depreciating asset, you want to make sure you get it right.

Ultimate guide to buy a car

What car?

There are literally millions of cars out there and hundreds of different manufacturers, this makes it even more difficult to decide which car is the best for you. The good news is, most online car sales sites like auto24.ee, autotrader.co.uk and mobile.de allow you to enter your filters and search for vehicles across the marketplace. Even an extremely good car salesman might be able to help you in a similar way. A few things you should take in to consideration:

  • Type – SUV, Sports car, Van, Estate, Saloon? This depends on where you live and the terrain you will be driving on, your family size and the main purpose you will use your car for. For example, if you live in northern Europe then a sports car may not be the most practical option for the icy winter conditions, in comparison it might be perfect for those living somewhere like sunny Spain.
  • Mileage– Generally, this has a huge impact on price as it’s commonly said the moment you drive your brand new car out of the dealership it decreases in value.
  • Fuel– Petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric. If you’re environmentally conscious then the electric option may be your first choice, for others using a van for trade purposes you might find a diesel engine more suited with your daily routine. LV has created an excellent article comparing the pros and cons of each fuel type here.
  • Age – While older cars are likely to be cheaper, you should check a few things like the chassis, any evidence of rust and the engine to see if it has been taken care of by the previous owner.
  • And of course, price

Price

Before anything, you should first work out exactly how much you can afford whether it’s on a monthly basis or a full cash payment (We’ll get to this). After you’ve come to a figure, remember that when purchasing a car your emotions and impulses will often try to take over, especially if you are in the presence of a car salesman.

parked cars

Yes, you may be able to buy a new Mercedes for an extra €10,000 but think about how much you actually need it and what restrictions it might impose on your financial standing (and ultimately your personal/social life) if you were to buy it.

If you’re still not sure, a good place to start is by either looking at the total amount of your savings balance or the net free income you have each month after your investments, bills and social life. Decide on a percentage of this to put towards a car and stick to it.

Cash, lease or finance?

This is an interesting one. A small percentage of people will have the spare cash lying around to purchase a brand new car that’s priced at over 5 figures, and with this option you will certainly pay less money overall for the car. When leasing a car, your repayments will usually be much lower than financing because you are essentially paying for the value of the depreciation in the car. At the end of an agreed term, you then have the option to make a lump sum payment and buy the car outright or hand it back to the dealer and take out a new similar deal. If you choose to take out finance for the car, your payments will be higher than the leasing option but you will own the car in full once the loan term has ended.

But, even if you have the cash available this does not necessarily mean it is the most cost effective option. Why? Well, if you have a good credit score and can obtain a low rate of finance on the car (e.g. 3%) and you know that you can make 10% per annum when you invest that large lump sum, this option works in your favour and pays for the interest due on the loan with some left over for you to compound.

Insurance and tax

It’s surprising how much the price of insurance varies significantly between providers. Based on their internal models and data, one insurer may quote you a price 3 times higher than another and offer pretty much the same package. Similar to taking out a mortgage, we suggest you use a comparison website to get an idea of which providers can give you the best price and overall cover. Usually, you can find some providers that will give you free extras like breakdown cover, legal cover and even unique quirky offers like theatre tickets. It’s important to point out here that when it comes to renewing your policy, it’s likely that your existing provider will not give you the best price out there since you are already a customer so make sure to shop around.

insurance and car

In most countries, the tax payment due for your car is heavily influenced by the age, type of fuel and the level of emissions it produces. If you have an old diesel SUV that pumps out Co2 emissions like there’s no tomorrow, prepare for a hefty tax bill. On the other hand, if you have an electric car then some governments have imposed a rule of no tax due on these cars. You should get an idea of the insurance and tax payments you will be responsible for before finalizing the purchase of a car and review this against your overall budget.

Beware of the extras!

So you have decided on the car you love, you’ve found a dealership and you’ve agreed on a (hopefully discounted) price, congrats! At this point you will be introduced to the ‘After Sales’ manager who is responsible for closing the deal and ensuring you buy as many optional extras as they can cram on to a piece of A4 paper. A typical extra might be a warranty offered by the dealerships themselves, this will be presented in gold wrapping paper and sprinkles but the truth is it’s not any different to the warranty already in place that the car manufacturer offers on a complimentary basis.

You can also expect a number of gadgets to be thrown your way as luxury options, such as three 12V sockets in the boot of your car that only cost an extra €499. Unless you are a frequent camper or the type of person who carries around a portable kettle for emergencies, then you probably don’t need it.

Drive away happy

Now you know the facts and you’ve done your research, you can feel confident in your decision knowing you have a great car that won’t negatively impact your financial well-being.

If you’ve recently bought a car, add a picture in the comments section below 🙂