Tips for buying your first new car

Tips for buying your first new car

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Text: Daryl Lee

So, you've decided to take the plunge and buy your first car. And like buying your first home or getting into your first long-term relationship, it can be a veritable minefield for the uninitiated.

Buying a used car is probably even trickier, having to navigate dodgy used car salespeople peddling even dodgier wares. But we're not going to get into that today, we're just going to be focusing on buying a new car. These are the things we wished we knew before we made our first hefty purchase.

1. Spend within your means

Car buying advice 1

Like, duh, right? Though this doesn't just apply to the purchase price of the car. Don't forget that in addition to monthly loan repayments (unless you bought a car with cash), you'll also have to deal with an annual insurance and road tax bill.

Where the latter is dependant on your car's engine capacity, ranging from well under $1,000 to $5,000 or more, how much your insurance premium will come to is a bit tougher to determine.

It's dependant on a whole host of factors, ranging from your age, number of years you've held your license, claims history, type of car you drive and whether Mercury is in retrograde or not. We're kidding on that last bit, but you get the idea.

You might be able to afford the monthly loan repayment, but factor in all the above and things could go from comfortable to uncomfortable in a hurry. And that's not even factoring in how...


2. Maintenance ain't cheap

Car buying advice

Glossy ads and brochures will tell your how awesome a car is, how it'll walk on water and fix you a five-course dinner; price lists, banks and running cost calculators will tell you how much fixed costs you'll incur annually.

But what all the above don't tell you is how much a car costs to maintain and repair. Again, depending on what you own, a routine annual oil change could run you several hundred dollars to a $1,000 or more.

Broadly speaking, a workaday econo-box will be easier and therefore, cheaper to maintain than a thoroughbred supercar. Not only because you're paying the dreaded 'supercar tax', but also because the packaging of such cars everything is so tightly optimised, even the simplest task might involve incredibly elaborate procedures.

A fan belt replacement might involve dropping the engine, for instance. And as everyone knows, that is mechanic-speak for "not going to be cheap", along with the sound of them sucking air through their teeth before telling you what sort of work needs to be done to your car.

Usually this is immediately followed by said mechanic handing over a five-figure quotation for repairs/servicing.

A quick search via the magic of Google will usually show some common problems associated with the car model you're looking at.

Also, given how much electronics modern cars have, electrical issues could prove to not only be annoying, but potentially a very expensive problem a few years in the future. Plus, depending on the complexity and/or proprietary nature of the electronics, they can only be diagnosed/fixed with extremely expensive, specialised equipment

You know how when things go wrong with your iPhone, Apple are the only people who can fix it without bricking the device? Yeah, imagine that, but with a few zeros appended to the repair bill.


3. Practicality matters

Car buying advice

Pay no heed to the people who will tell you a two-seater convertible is a "selfish car". But unless you intend to use your car as a private hire vehicle or have a serious need to ferry the brood about, we say just get it, selfish or not.

We're all for being enablers of indulgences, but while you might not have any need to drive people around, said selfish car will still need to carry around the possessions of you and your significant other.   

So, while you might not need a cavernous boot that will swallow your entire wardrobe, a boot that will easily swallow a pair of cabin-sized bags without too much swearing or having it occupy the passenger's lap is also a must.

You know the sort of hypercars that come with their own set of fitted luggage? Yeah, you probably would want to steer clear of that. Unless of course you have the luxury of owning more than one car. That or if you find the idea of luggage that isn't a perfect fit for your boot a little gauche.


4. You really don't need that sunroof

Car buying advice

Now, let's get this out of the way: we have nothing against sunroofs in particular. But it's just a handy metaphor for things that are cost options. While cars in Singapore generally come with fairly generous items standard from the factory, some manufacturers still offer a plethora of options.

And in the euphoria of getting a new car, it's all too easy to get swept up in the moment and check the box for the body-coloured air conditioning vent slats (this one exists), along with the 67-way power-adjustable massage seats (sadly, this one doesn't) and the ejector seat for annoying passengers (this one doesn't either, more's the pity).

That said, you don't have to avoid options like the plague. Just, well, don't go nuts and sleep on your decision before pulling the trigger. Equally obviously, there's no one-size-fits-all advice for this. While some would considering having an upgraded infotainment system frippery, an equal number would also say a bigger screen lends the car a sense of high SES-ness, and that can't be dismissed.

The rule of thumb here is to ask yourself how likely you are to use said (probably expensive) option in the future once the novelty has worn off. Sure, that optional heads-up display might be cool at first, but how long will it be until it just becomes an annoyance.

Which leads us neatly to our next point...


5. You don't grow into liking a car

Car buying advice

The most enduring relationships are the ones where both parties grow into each other. That, sadly, doesn't work for cars.

That minor niggle in how there's this bit on the centre console has this annoying way of reflecting the sun directly into your eyes? The way you can never really get comfortable in the seat while you're driving? Or how the control stalks for the wiper/signals just seem a little too long/short?

Speaking from experience, we can tell you that those small annoyances are only going to bug you more in the future.

TL;DR don't buy a car you're not 100 percent happy with. If there's something about it that bugs you, listen to your heart, walk away and look at something else. Nobody's holding a gun to your head. Unless of course, someone actually is. In that case, you might want to get two of those cars.

Got your fill of advice? Head on over here to check out our other motoring articles and see what new metal tickles your fancy.




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