buying a new car

New car buying advice

Don’t assume you have to go to a franchised dealer (your local Ford/Renault dealership) to buy your new car, because you’ve got plenty of options when it comes to spending your cash. There are more places than ever that can sell you a new car, but if you pay a rock-bottom price you’ll probably get a rock-bottom service. The most common new-car outlets are franchised dealers, car supermarkets and brokers.

What research do I need to do before I buy a new car?

There’s no shortage of places to read up on any car you may be considering buying, but some are more useful than others. Make a shortlist based on your requirements, which can be the features of a car such as number of doors, infotainment system (DAB radio, etc), engine size and price!

When to buy a new car

Once you’ve taken into account the elements in the ‘What to buy’ section, you can narrow down which cars you’re interested in. Because there are two peaks in the new car market (1 March and 1 September), dealers are run off their feet trying to prepare and deliver all these new motors. Buy outside these periods and you should get a better price as well as a more personal service.

Where is the best place to research my new car purchase?

Some publications are never critical because they’re worried about upsetting advertisers, and even those who are critical may not be balanced because they’re out to entertain rather than inform. This is why it’s so important to research as widely as possible and get a feel for how well regarded any car is; owners’ forums are usually the best place to start.

If you can narrow your potential purchases down to a shortlist, it’ll help you settle on the best car – but make sure you try a range of models before committing to a purchase.

Whatever you do, don’t go out and buy a car on the strength of what professional road testers have written about it – car reviewers often have a different set of personal circumstances and requirements from those who read their articles, and what suits them might not be right for you. Obviously our new car reviews are written with you in mind specifically, but you might have a really weird set of priorities…


Franchised dealers

These are appointed by the manufacturer they represent. They generally charge the highest prices, but should offer expertise along with ease of servicing, because the chances are they’ll focus on just the one marque – or no more than a tiny handful of them.

As well as keeping some cars in stock – and having access to nationwide stocks of new cars through the official network channels – you’ll be able to order exactly the car you want. That means your colour, spec (with options) and exactly the right trim and engine for your needs.

Car supermarkets

These hold massive stocks and work on tiny margins – so you can make decent savings.  The idea is that they pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap, so they make lots of small profits rather than a small number of big ones. There’s usually no haggling at all, although you might be able to chip something off the asking price if you’re lucky. However, you won’t be able to choose the car’s specification (as it’s already in stock), so there’s no chance of adding any options.

Most importantly though, bargains abound by taking this route. You have to be careful though and make extensive checks before buying, because if problems crop up later, you may struggle to get them sorted; car supermarkets don’t specialise in individual makes and they’re more interested in selling cars than fixing them.

It’s also important to remember that the ‘new’ cars sold by a car supermarket will have already been registered, usually to the car supermarket. The car may have delivery mileage, but technically it’s a used car if there’s already a name on the registration document. These are called ‘pre-reg’ cars and there’s nothing wrong with them if the price is right.


You’ll find quite a few of these if you use the internet, but they’re not as common as they used to be thanks to shrinking margins on new cars. The idea is the broker can order in bulk and secure savings accordingly, but if you take this route you must read any contract before you sign it, because there may be hidden costs in the small print.


What should I  check when collecting a new car

The purchase of any new car represents a major financial investment, so you’re entitled to expect perfection. Often this isn’t what’s delivered though, which is why you need to home in on any glitches at the point of collection. As soon as you leave the forecourt, the supplying dealer can (and will) claim that the car was fine when they supplied it. That’s why you must check it over thoroughly before you accept it, so check all of these things before you drive away:

Here’s our checklist

  • Is the paintwork scratch and chip-free?
  • Are there any dents in the panels?
  • Is the glass damaged in any way?
  • Is the paint a uniform colour all round?
  • Is there any evidence of any touching in or respraying?
  • Is it exactly what you ordered in terms of trim level, engine and specification?
  • Is the interior marked in any way?
  • Does everything work? Press all the buttons and make sure everything does as it should.
  • Are you the first registered keeper on the registration document?
  • Has the car been taxed?