Driving a new car can be a great experience in life. Walking into a dealership and buying one, on the other hand, can rank up there with public speaking and dentist visits in terms of fear and anxiety. Here are five tips to make sure you come out on top.

1. Research

Before you even step foot into a dealership, you want to have a fair idea of the type of vehicle that’s going to suit your needs. Our advice – jump online. Smart shoppers start with hours of research to determine what vehicle is right for them. Do you have pets? Will you be towing? More children in the pipeline? What is the vehicle’s safety rating? These are the type of questions you should be asking yourself before finalising makes and models.

Have a look at car reviews and buyer’s guides to learn what’s available and how they compare, you may then want to check out online listings to gauge a better understanding of market values.

2. Finance

Understanding your finances is important, as it can help you understand what budget you can put behind buying your new car. Think about the cost not only to pay for the vehicle, but to maintain it and keep it on the road throughout the year.

If you’re intending to buy a new car using finance, shop around for the best rates and try to get the amount that you want to spend pre-approved by your lender as it will give you the same power as a cash buyer. Setting up finance through the dealer may not always be the best option. The payments may appear small at first, but once you factor in interest and other fees, your budget can be thrown out the window without you even realising.

3. Test drive

Now that you have narrowed it down to a few vehicles, it’s time to take them for that all important test drive, and we’re not just talking a little zip around the block. A thorough test drive is vital. It's your best chance to make sure you're comfortable, that you'll enjoy driving the car and that it's right for all your needs. Dealers might even be prepared to let you test drive a new car for an extended time or even overnight – don't be shy to ask.

Test drive the car as you would usually intend to do so. If you’re constantly finding yourself in stop / start traffic, go get stuck in it. If you’re out in the country, take it out on the open road and see how it handles.

4. Inspection & History

You now have one car at the top of your mind but, before you commit, you need to make sure you’re not buying a lemon. Before you even think about popping the bonnet, go over the vehicle’s paint work and interior with a fine tooth comb, this is something the majority of buyer’s can do themselves, and can avoid you finding imperfections later on, and questioning if they were there in the first place.

If you’re not mechanically minded, we recommend you get a Pre Purchase Inspection to give you peace of mind and assurance that you’re buying a quality vehicle.

5. Negotiations

You’ve now put the hard yards in, been on all the test drives, and narrowed down the perfect candidate. The finish line is in sight but we must overcome one final hurdle – the negotiation.

To get the best deal, you really have to put your emotions out of the picture and use logic and foresight to close the deal. If you play it cool and professional, great deals can be had. Avoid asking questions and be confident in your purchase decision, being unsure about what you want can put you on the back foot.

Try not to wear your heart on your sleeve. Saying you “love the car” or “this is the best one we have seen” is not going to do you any favours. It sounds obvious but it happens all too often and the dealer will set his price accordingly, so keep your cards close to your chest.

The dealers aren’t out to get you, but they are there to sell cars and make a profit. Just because you have entered into negotiating a deal doesn’t mean you have to complete one. Be prepared to walk away – especially if you’re having second thoughts.

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