Research, research, research
Once you’ve decided on the type of car you want, jump online to find out which particular models suit your needs. Start with the manufacturers’ websites or check buyer guides in car magazines and newspapers. Read as many reviews as you can of the model(s) in which you’re interested (though bear in mind that no review comes without bias), and look out for reliability surveys.
In particular, look for:
Safety credentials As well as ABS brakes and driver and passenger airbags, look for electronic traction and stability control, and side and curtain airbags.
and environmental credentials Of the 20 top-selling new cars in Australia (August 2009), the Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Golf and Hyundai i30 are the only ones with a five-star rating for their environmental credentials. The rating is based on the best rated model; for more information, see www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au. Also, check fuel consumption figures displayed on the yellow labels attached to the windscreen of new cars. Be aware, though, that while the label allows you to compare between different cars, official fuel consumption is determined in laboratory tests and how much fuel you will actually use under normal driving conditions is likely to be higher.
Potential resale value Recent trends indicate that vehicles with good safety and fuel efficiency credentials are performing increasingly well for resale value – see www.glassguide.com.au or www.redbook.com.au for more information.
Car insurance costs Consider these as well as the initial cost of buying the car. We asked insurance company GIO to quote annual comprehensive car insurance premiums for similarly priced cars, and found the premium for the Hyundai i30 was $50 cheaper than for a Toyota Corolla. You can save even more by getting quotes from a range of insurers. Our car insurance survey found average price differences per year between $440 to $1500, just by shopping around.
Warranty New cars come with a manufacturer’s warranty of up to five years, and even 10-year warranties are available for some components of the vehicle. Increasingly, many new cars also come with roadside assistance and set-price servicing.
Model cycle The life cycle for models varies between manufacturers, but typically there are minor updates every two years while major updates come about every four or five years. With 4WDs, these periods tend to be longer. Check the models you’re interested in via a website such as www.redbook.com.au to determine how long they have been in production. The longer you have to trace back, the greater the chance a new model is imminent. Buying a model that’s about to be superseded, especially by a new-generation vehicle, will give you a point of leverage with the dealer, as its resale value will suffer with the arrival of the new model.
- Article co-authored by Fraser Stronach