Buying a new carChoosing, ordering and taking delivery of a new car can be an enjoyable experience, but there’s more to it than simply walking into a dealer and signing on the dotted line. Here, we show you how to buy the right car, the right way.

Setting your budget

Before you think about which car to buy, you’ll need to work out how much you have to spend.
• Work out how much your current car is worth, and whether you’ll sell it privately or part-exchange it with a dealer
• Decide on whether you need to take out finance
• Calculate your likely fuel, insurance and road tax costs

How Auto Trader can help:

Choosing the right car

There’s an almost bewildering choice of cars on the market, so the first step in the process is to decide what sort of car you want. Ask yourself all the fundamental questions, such as how many seats you need, how much space you want inside, and whether you’ll need the car to do anything specific, like towing a trailer or fitting the car into a small garage.

Just as importantly, you’ll need to work out how much you can afford to pay – but don’t forget that there’s more to it than just buying the car. You’ll also need to factor in the costs of fuel, insurance, Vehicle Excise Duty and servicing/maintenance.

How Auto Trader can help:

Test driving a new car

Dealers expect any prospective buyer to take a new car for a test drive before they buy, and it’s vital that you use this time well. However, remember that, unlike when you’re buying a used car, you don’t require a mechanical mind to check out a new model.

Test the car over as wide a range of roads as you can, but concentrate on the kind of situations you’re most likely to encounter in day-to-day driving. If you’ll be using the car as a long-distance cruiser, for instance, head for a stretch of motorway or dual carriageway; and, if you’re confined to the urban jungle, spend most of your drive in town.

Above all, get as long as possible behind the wheel, and try to stick to familiar roads. That way, you can concentrate on what the car’s like rather than where you’re going.

Think about how comfortable the car is, how refined it is, and whether it’s quick enough; is it easy to reach the controls, do you get a good view out and, how good is the stereo.

Remember, too, that a road test isn’t just about driving. To check the car is big enough, try filling it with your usual cargo: squeeze the kids into anything you’re considering as a family car or take your golf clubs along, if that’s your thing.

How Auto Trader can help:

Paying for your new car

Sometimes, it can seem as if there are as many ways to pay for your new car as there are cars on sale in the first place. You can choose from Hire Purchase, Personal Contract Purchase, personal loans or even cash, but no one way is right for everyone.

Each method has its pros and cons, and which is best for you depends on your circumstances, how much the car costs, the size of the repayments and how long you’ll need to keep them up. To choose between the options, it’s important to understand them all – picking the wrong package could leave you paying well over the odds in the long run.

How Auto Trader can help:

Doing the paperwork

Once you and the dealer have come to an agreement on the price, specification and delivery time for your new car, it’s time to sort out the paperwork. The dealer will supply you with forms and invoices much like any other retailer, but make sure you get all the details in writing. You’ll also need to ensure you come away with the car‘s manuals, service history booklet and the V5C logbook document.

Keep all the paperwork safe because you’ll need it not only when you come to sell, but also if you have to complain to the dealer about any problem with the car in the future.

Returning a car

The vast majority of new car purchases go without a hitch, but occasionally things do go wrong.
If this happens to you, there are some golden rules to follow: above all, tell the dealer as soon as possible, keep conversations friendly, and keep a record of any contact you have with them. Never refuse to pay finance, though – do that and the lender could repossess the car or any assets the loan is secured on.

If such an approach doesn’t work, remember that you are protected by some powerful consumer laws. If the worst comes to the worst, seek advice from your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau or a recognised trade body.

How Auto Trader can help:

More in-depth buying advice:

How to choose the right car:
Buying a used car | Buying a new car | Setting your budget
Comparing new and used cars | Choosing the right car
Buying an imported car | Buying a classic car

How to buy a car:
Contacting the seller | Inspecting a used car | Test driving a car
Haggling with sellers | Doing the paperwork

How to pay for your car:
Understanding car loans and finance | Checking your credit rating
Returning a car