January can be a great time of the year to buy a car, with many dealerships looking to clear out their inventory in anticipation of new stock arriving. If you play your cards right, you might be able to benefit from incentives, rebates or low-interest financing options that are not available at other times of the year.
This applies especially to new cars, since dealers will be expecting last year’s models to be replaced by new or updated models.
Here are some tips that will make it easier to buy in the early weeks of the year.
- Get your spare key and registration papers together. If you’re trading in your existing car, make sure you have the spare key, service history, and registration papers at hand. Save a copy of the registration papers in the cloud, just in case.
- Clean your car and get scratches removed. Getting your car polished and valeted, and buffing out any small scratches, can help you get a better resale or trade-in value.
- Put down a deposit to reduce interest repayments. If you recently received a bonus or have some savings available, consider using it towards your deposit. The more you can pay upfront, the less the interest you will pay over the term of the car loan.
- Don’t neglect your homework. Even if you’re looking at a time-limited offer, read reviews about the cars you’re evaluating, compare prices, and ensure you’re getting a fair trade-in or resale value. Also, you do not need to limit your search to the geographical area you are in. Nowadays, it’s easy to search for good deals across the country — be it through dealers or online buying platforms. You can negotiate remotely, arrange for an independent inspection, secure agreements such as a two-week money-back guarantee, and even have the chosen car delivered to where you are.
- Take care of the insurance. You’ll need proof of insurance cover to drive away with your new car if you’re buying it with bank financing. You might struggle to get this sorted on a Saturday morning if you’re insuring through a traditional insurer. But with a digital insurance platform like Naked, you can use an app to get a quote, buy and download proof of cover within a few minutes.
- Consider buying from a reputable dealer. If you’re buying a used car, a reputable physical or online dealership that can offer you the car’s service history and registration papers is the safest option. Most dealerships that sell new cars from the major brands will often also sell certified pre-owned vehicles, giving you a little more assurance that the car meets minimum quality standards.
- Evaluate before you buy. Ask to see the service history and look at the mileage of any car you’re seriously thinking of buying. Check if the car has been in an accident. You can use the car’s VIN number on Autotrader’s Vehicle Check or Lightstone Auto to find out if there is any police interest or accident reports that involve the car. This is important when you’re buying from a private individual – especially if the deal seems too good to be true.
- Remember to budget for the full cost of ownership. When you’re deciding how much you can spend on a car, keep in mind that the monthly repayment is only part of the cost. Ensure you’re also budgeting for insurance, maintenance, fuel, and unexpected repairs. Leave some slack in your budget for rising interest rates and fuel costs.
- Think again about whether you really want or need the car. While January can be a favourable time to buy a new car, bear in mind that a car is a living expense, not an asset. Think carefully about whether a new car is the best way to spend your money ahead of the new year.