I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a really decrepit car once in their life to fully appreciate one day having a good car. For me, it was a 1988 hatchback that was finally given its marching orders after it kept leaking petrol despite replacing tubes that were definitely meant to contain said petrol.
My next car was a six-year-old Mazda 3 and let me tell you, I felt like a millionaire every time I drove that thing. All that’s to say, when it comes time to finally upgrade your whip, it’ll all be worth it.
Then, a couple of months ago, I took the plunge and bought a brand new car. It’s automatic, a hybrid, and I feel like a fully-fledged adult every time I’m sitting in traffic on a hot day with my air con blaring — and it’s one of the biggest financial decisions I’ve ever made.
There’s a lot to consider when buying a new (or new to you) car, and there are definitely a few questions you should be asking yourself before taking the plunge. Ahead, we break it all down.
1. What will you be using the car for?
Perhaps one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is what exactly you plan to use the car for, as it’ll determine what type and size car you actually need. Are you just using it on the weekends? Then maybe you can stand to save some money and don’t need a brand-spankin’ new one. Will it be used for driving to and from work as well as the weekends? Then you’ll want some comfort. Carting kids around in the back seat? Maybe don’t get a three-door hatch.
Once you’ve got a better idea of what type of car you need, you can start to figure out whether it’s worth going for a used model or buying a brand new one.
2. Are you sharing the car with someone else?
You might not be using the car day in and day out but, chances are, if you’re sharing it with a partner or family member, then it’ll get used a lot more often. It also means you’ll be paying for the car from two incomes, so you may be able to afford something a little more expensive (and a lot newer).
Sit down with whoever you’re sharing the car with and write a big list of all the times you’ll both need the car on a regular basis. This will give you an idea of just how quickly you’ll be racking up the mileage and help you to get clear on whether one car is enough for both your needs, and how much you’re both willing to spend.
3. Do you want an auto or manual car?
The importance of considering the transmission is two-fold: automatic cars are more expensive whether you’re buying brand new or pre-owned. It’s just a sad fact. Meanwhile, cars with manual transmissions are often a little bit cheaper.
But the conversation doesn’t stop there. The risk with buying a manual car second-hand is that you truly have no idea how much the previous owner (or owners) have thrashed the gearbox, and if that puppy dies, you’ll be up for some seriously spenny repairs. If you can get a mechanic to give it a once-over before you hand over your money, then all the better. Either way, it’s an important consideration.
4. How much cash have you got saved?
We don’t need to explain this one too much because it’s, no doubt, on your mind if you’re considering an upgrade to your current ride. More money probably equals a newer car, but you already know that.
5. Are you willing and able to take out a loan?
If you’ve looked at your bank account and it’s just not adding up, we’ll ask you this: are you willing and financially able to take out a loan? Signing up for any new financial debt is always a big decision, so you want to make sure you have your ducks in a row before you take the plunge.
If you can afford a loan, there are a few things to keep an eye out for: look for loans with no monthly fees, flexible repayment options, and here’s the big one, no penalties for paying it out early.
If you don’t really know whether you can afford to take out a loan, that’s okay too. To help you figure out how much money you can feasibly borrow right now, CUA has a nifty online tool that’ll help you calculate repayments, interest rates, and the loan term based on your income.Image: Dude, Where's My Car?