Be a smart shopper

Updated: Nov 10 2012, 07:13am hrs
Its festive season and carmakers are launching a barrage of new cars. Naturally, its hard to decide what car to buy and there are a lot of deals and discounts being flung around. But the problem is, there are so many choices out there, and deciding what you need and what you dont can be tricky.

How much should I spend

The most important step is deciding what your budget is. Youll be surprised to know what a difference R20,000-50,000 makes when youre deciding what variant to choose. Fix your budget first, stick by it and be willing to go up by a few thousand. Its easy to get swayed by a smooth-talking sales representative. The trick is to refuse to budge and to be adamant about what you actually require, and not what the salesperson makes you think you need. Theres a lot to pick from, and theres also a lot for the salesperson to throw at you.

What type of car should I buy

Choosing the right body style is the next step. There are two sides to reconcile, your heart and your head. Decide on the number of people that will be using the car on a regular basisif youre buying a car just for the commute to work and the occasional weekend outing, a hatchback is all you need. If you live in a crowded city, driving a hatch makes more sense, both in terms of fuel efficiency and driving ease. But if you require additional cabin space and the practicality of a larger boot, then a saloon makes more sense. If you have a large family that travels together a lot, then MPVs offer the convenience of seven seats. SUVs are huge, and come with an imposing presence, but more often than not are difficult to pilot in urban conditions.

Target price

Dont reveal your budget to the dealer; thats a big mistake. The dealer may be trying to sell you a car thats not been selling very well, just to get it out of the showroom, and it may not be the right car for you. Also, find out what the going discount on a particular model is. You can also get a big discount if you pick a car thats already in stock.

Get competitive quotes

When youre buying from an authorised dealer, it pays to hunt around and check out prices of the car of your choice at other dealers. If the dealer is aware that you can get a better deal elsewhere, then they may lower the price if you push them for it.

After-sales

Carmakers like Hyundai and Maruti have a widespread after-sales network and this inadvertently makes owning the car much easier. Check how strong the companys after-sales is with your friends or colleagues, or ask others who own cars from the same brand.

Free servicing and warranty

Most car companies offer free servicing for a predetermined period, and this can be a boon at least for the first year or so. Find out how many free services the carmaker is offering on your car. Also, some carmakers offer better warranty packages than others.

Depreciation

A big discount wont matter if the car youre buying loses its value very easily. Compare the depreciation of the car youre interested in with other cars from the same segment.

Know your insurance

A diesel car is assumed to be used more often than a petrol one, so the premium charged for it is usually higher by 10-15%. Also, installing safety devices in your car can bag you a discount on your premium. The insurance premium charged for a car may also differ according to the profile of the owneroccupation and drivers age.

Test drive the car

No amount of reading can prepare you for what the car actually feels like to drive. Make sure you test drive the car first, and pay attention to the finer details. Take the car over a speedbreaker or a bumpy surface and see how much the car bobs up and down, check if the air-con cools the cabin well, and check if youre comfortable in both the drivers seat and the back seat.

What equipment do you need

Some cars come loaded with features. But the trick is deciding which features you really need. While the usefulness of safety features like ABS and airbags may not be immediately apparent, they could be the difference between life and death someday. On the contrary, a starter button, leather seats, climate control and other such convenience features are things you can generally live without. So choose wisely.