Know what you’re getting into

motoring_feature_gettingintAvoid costly surprises by doing some research before you visit a dealer.

It’s all too easy to find your heart ruling your head once you actually get to the dealer and test drive a new car – before you know what you’re doing you’ve signed on the dotted line and bought a car without really knowing what you’re getting into.


Get an insurance quote for every model you’re thinking of buying.

New cars are given an insurance group rating between 1 and 50 which most insurers will take into account when setting premiums. All else being equal, the lower the group rating the lower the insurance should be.

Group rating takes account of factors including performance, image, price when new, parts prices and repair costs and can vary quite a lot between engine/trim variants of the same model.

Car tax

road-taxFor a car first registered after 1 March 2001 the annual cost of car tax is based on its official CO2 emissions figure. CO2 is measured in official ‘type approval’ tests and shown on the V5C registration document.

Annual rates range from £0/year for the most frugal models up to a potentially deal-breaking £490/year so it pays to check before you buy. Make sure you get the correct model specification as this can make a lot of difference.

CO2 emissions are directly related to fuel consumption so you’ll pay less for a greener, more economical model than you will for a more performance oriented one. Fuel economy has improved over the past decade too so an older car you might expect to be in a lower band may not be.

Fuel Choice

Diesel has a reputation for being more economical but with the relative prices of petrol and diesel the way they are – diesel is considerably more expensive – you’ll have to be a high mileage driver to recoup the higher cost of buying a diesel car through better fuel economy alone.

Possibly more importantly, diesel cars registered since 2009 – and many registered before – have a device called a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) installed in the exhaust.

A car with a DPF is not a suitable choice if you plan to use it mainly for town-based stop/start driving because of the risk of filter blocking due to failure to achieve the conditions required for filter ‘regeneration’.

For lower mileage, mostly shorter journeys and urban use it’s best to consider a petrol, hybrid or even electric car.

Fuel consumption

18034761Don’t take it for granted that your new car will deliver the fuel economy indicated by official figures – manufacturers have to quote three figures: urban, extra-urban and combined.

On average ‘real world’ fuel consumption is 21% worse than the ‘official combined’ figure, and the gap has been getting larger – it was a more reasonable 8% back in 2001.

The difference does vary from model to model, and seems to be bigger for more economical cars, but if as a rule of thumb you anticipate getting 25% worse than the official combined figure you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Other things to think about

Safety – Check Euro NCAP‘s safety ratings for an indication of how well the car will protect you and your family in a collision. Take care when comparing ratings because the tests and star rating criteria have become more demanding over the years.

Practicalities – If you’re planning to garage the car check its dimensions carefully – cars are getting bigger, but garages aren’t.

Budget – Get a realistic idea of what your current car’s worth, either as a private sale or a trade-in and, if you’re going to borrow money, shop around for a loan before you visit the dealer to make sure you get the best deal. Why not see what the AA have to offer.


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