The used car market is something that we’ve already covered on at 0to60 and, as we found, there are some brilliant deals to be had. Not everyone, however, is willing to take the risk and, if you can still afford to buy a vehicle fresh from the showroom which we would still consider acceptable, you may wish to buy a car new. For these individuals, 0to60 has compiled this guide to help you avoid falling into traps and ending up with the best car possible.
What type of car?
So what sort of car should you buy? Well that depends… One of the first things you should consider is how many people you’re going to be carrying around on a daily basis. There’s little point in spending extra money on a 7 seat car if you’re on your own, just as buying a 2 seat coupé if you’ve got 3 children to take with you to school every morning isn’t the best decision.
Once you’ve worked that out, you need to decide how many doors you’ll need on the car.
If you’ve got teenage children, a three door hatchback would be less suitable as it’ll be impractical for one member of the family to continually have to crawl into the back, but if your kids are still small, then the hatchback won’t be much of an issue. Other factors to consider are the sort of roads you will be driving on. The roads that lead to my house are unmade and such we have a 4×4. If you’re going to be commuting a long way every day, consider something more comfortable.
The only easy vehicle to include or eliminate in your search for a new car is the 4×4. You either need an off-road vehicle, or you don’t. The criteria for such a car are:
- Another type of car would not make it to you home or place of work.
- More than 5 people will be using your car on a regular basis and you can’t face the prospect of a people carrier.
- None of the above, but you like to waste money.
How Much to Spend
The next most important factor is your budget, and you’ll find this will already have influenced the car type that you’ve chosen. Find what you can spend (preferably as much as possible – within reason: if your car will end up bigger than or worth more than your home, consider spending less) and stick to it. Quite simply, you should be able to afford some cars, and not afford others – don’t allow a murky middle ground where you could afford the car you want if you didn’t go on holiday this year – I’ll repeat this very important point: find out what you can spend on your new car, and stick to it.
But what if you need a 4×4 for the rough road to your domicile, or big comfortable car for a long commute to work, but can’t find anything within your budget that 0to60 might consider acceptable? In this case, you may have to rethink whether a new car that will be an improvement on the vehicle you already own, whether a cheaper category of car would do (your teenage child may have to settle for the cramped back seat of that 3 door hatchback), or you can look around on the used market for something more satisfactory.
With these things in mind, you can start to look at specific vehicles. To narrow down your choices these I’ve compiled some cars to consider and some to avoid.
Anything made by Peugeot
The number of cars that are remotely useful made by this manufacturer is 0.
There’s very little point to these vehicles. I won’t deny that they’re visually attractive and so buy one if you want, but not as your main vehicle, which is what this guide is all about.
The Mini Coupé, Smart Fortwo or even a sporty Porsche may seem like a reasonable choice, but the moment you need to give more than one person a lift somewhere, they stop being reasonable at all. Have one if you want, but not as your only vehicle.
Any car that is less respectable, has less equipment or is more juvenile than your current one – why change to a worse vehicle?
First cars – Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Toyota Aygo
Your first car ought not to be new, for reasons we’ve explained before, but if you’re crazed and have money to burn, any of these three cars make for a sensible choice.
4x4s – Land Rover Discovery, Volvo XC90, Volkswagen Touareg
The Discovery and Volvo are the two best cars for both off-road use and for those of you with plenty of passengers. The Discovery is less pleasant to look at, but the Volvo can seem a bit dated at times, so either car will do. If you need the off-road capability, but not the capacity of the Volvo and Discovery, the Volkswagen Touareg is your best bet. Not only will its running costs be much lower, but it’s more stylish than both of them put together. Still, think: do you really need a 4×4? If not, you could probably get a nicer car for the same money – that extra steel adds a lot to the list price of these cars.
Family Cars – BMW 5-series, Ford Mondeo, Subaru Legacy
The most prestigious, and probably the best, car of the three is the BMW 5-series. You can be assured of build quality, good looks and a high finish but you’ll pay the price for it, especially when you start to add extras. The Ford Mondeo will be a much cheaper choice and will soon, upon the release of the new Mondeo, be as good looking as, but still without the prestige of, the BMW. The Legacy is only offered as an estate, and will cost you about the same as the BMW. If you want something that nobody else has, but is still as good, the Legacy is the one to go for.
Hatchbacks – VW Golf, Ford Focus, Citroen DS3
The Ford Focus is now more expensive than a Volkswagen Golf, something which has caused uproar in the automotive world, but you have to remember that no other Ford Focus before has been as well equipped as the current model. The Golf is simply ideal hatchback. It might not be the most interesting vehicle, but nothing will beat in terms of practicality (you can always make it more exciting by going for the GTI). Finally, for those of you after something completely different, there’s the DS3. It’s an acquired taste, but, like the other DS models, it is a Citroen you would actually own.
Small Capacity/Luxury – Audi A7, Mercedes-Benz CLS, BMW 6-Series GC
So most of the time it’s going to be just you on your own, or with only a few other people, but your budget allows for something more substantial than the ‘first car’ type vehicles. Well, all three cars in this category have 4 seats; are expensive; can be very fast and are very pleasant to look at. There’s little between these cars, so it depends on which one you like the look of most.
No expense to be spared – Bentley Mulsanne, Aston Martin Rapide, Audi Q7 V12
If you have in excess of £100,000 to spend, but are still using this website to decide on your next car, rather than your PA doing so for you, any of these vehicles should suffice. The Bentley is the most luxurious, the Aston Martin is the fastest and the Audi manages to be completely pointless and perfectly practical all at once, as well as being the most discreet.
What comes as standard?
When deciding on a vehicle, also be sure to check the standard equipment. One vehicle may look cheaper than another, but unless you compare like for like (i.e. with the same options) you can’t really tell. You also don’t want to select a car just by looking at the basic price, it may look like you can afford the car, but by the time you add the most necessary of options, it may move out of your budget. Mercedes is the best example as one could buy almost any of their cars, even the most expensive, without their COMMAND system fitted, which should not be done – consider these extras and factor them into the real price you’ll pay for the car.
By now, you should have narrowed down your search to only a few vehicles, but there’s still more to do before you set off to the showroom. Read some reviews and find out if the car you thought would be ideal for you is actually suitable. Another important thing to find out is when the new model of the car/cars you’ve chosen will be released. Currently, I see many Mercedes M-Classes driving around on 61 number plates. If these individuals had done their research and waited an extra month or so, they could have had the brand new, more desirable M-Class that not only looks better, but will depreciate much more slowly. The current example is the Ford Mondeo. Next year, the new Mondeo will be released, but Ford themselves will not admit it because people will stop buying the current model. Don’t be caught out.
Finally, it’s time to visit the dealer – but not to buy the car. You need to take it for a test drive as this is the only way to find out if the car is truly what you thought it would be. It’s no good buying the car to find that you can’t fit all the children in the back without having your own face pressed up against the windscreen.
Placing an Order
When you do get around to ordering your car, there are yet more choices to be made. The engine denomination will be the earliest. Look at what difference each engine offers in performance, and consider if you really need something with additional power or speed. Also look at the running cost – how efficient and expensive to tax are they?
Next up comes colour. Don’t just go for a colour you like, but consider how desirable each colour is to everybody else. A Mercedes-Benz CLS will retail used for £5000 less than an equivalent CLS if it isn’t black, grey or silver. Look out for fashionable colours which will become ugly to everyone else faster than they will make the car lose value – nobody wants a dolomite brown Mercedes or Fashionista Fiesta.
Remember the budget you set at the start of this process? The options list is most likely to make you spend more than you intended than any other point in the process. Start by looking at trim levels and by seeing what is offered with each: it is often cheaper to upgrade to the next trim level than add 75% of what is offered on the higher level as options on the level below (if that makes sense…). Consider if you really need suede headlining or 4-zone air conditioning – will 4 people ever travel in the car? Either way, some of the less practical options will add huge amounts onto what you pay for the car. Like engine sizes, trim levels will also affect insurance premiums and, especially for younger drivers, this should be a big consideration. An Audi A1 SE might be affordable for a first car, but the S1 Quattro certainly will not.
So after all that, the only thing left to do is sell your old car, and I’ve no doubt such a guide will follow. Good luck!