The modern automobile is an incredible blend of functionality, technology and design. With dozens of new features becoming available in new car models every year it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine which of these features you really need in your car, and which of these will just empty your pockets without providing much additional value to your car or driving experience.
Here are some of the important things to keep in mind when buying a car.
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1. Fuel efficiency
The efficiency of your car’s engine will have a considerable impact on the cost of ownership over the long term. While engine efficiency has been improving steadily, you’ll still tend to find that bigger engines consume more fuel and deliver improved performance while smaller engines are lighter on fuel but pack less of a punch. Which of these two your choose will depend on what you want from a car, but ensure you do some research on what kind of fuel consumption you can expect from a car when calculating its affordability.
The safety features in your car can determine whether or not you survive a serious accident and how severe your injuries will be. Paying a little extra for better safety features can therefore be considered an investment in your health. Before buying a car it’s always a good idea to check up on how the car performed in crash testing, it’s safety ratings and what the car’s track record has been since release (looking out for recalls in particular).
Some safety features you don’t want to drive without include:
- an ABS braking system which prevents wheel lock during sudden braking
- front as well as curtain airbags (the latter are critical in side impact and rolling accidents).
Relatively inexpensive add-ons you can include to improve your safety are:
- automatic dimming rearview mirrors
- tyre pressure and tyre defect monitors.
While all cars depreciate in value, there is considerable variation in depreciation between different manufacturers and models. New cars also depreciate at a much faster rate than used cars. While some new car makes and models can lose as little as 25% of their value over a period of five years, others can lose up to 75% of their purchase value in the same period. So when buying a car, and a new car in particular, research the expected rate of depreciation for your vehicle, as this is money you won’t recover in the long term.
You’re going to be spending countless hours in your car, and something that starts off as a small niggle can become a major source of discomfort over a period of years.
Test drive the car and check for:
- Head clearance, i.e. whether you can comfortably get in and out of the car without bumping your head, and have enough overhead room when seated
- Seat comfort, whether the seat gives you enough back and head support, and whether or not you slide around the seat when cornering
- Stiffness of the suspension. If you go over a speedbump does a filling come out? A good suspension will prevent the car rolling to one side on corners and won’t make you feel every pit and pockmark in the road
- Passenger room, if you’re expecting to have company in your vehicle
- Control comfort:
- if it’s a manual does changing gears feel smooth and intuitive?
- if it’s an automatic, are the pedals comfortably sized and positioned, and do you have something to rest your left foot on?
- is the steering wheel comfortably positioned, and adjustable if it isn’t?
- Rattles – cabin rattle can become a serious irritant over time, and will tend to get worse as time passes.
5. Boot space
When you have a shiny new car in front of you boot space is probably not going to be the first thing on your mind. However, a tiny boot can become a major inconvenience over time and force you to extend your boot space by putting your back seats down. It’s also not unusual for cars with tiny boots to position the spare wheel out of easy reach, and some may dispense with a spare wheel altogether.
6. Cost of spares
Replacing car parts can make up a significant chunk of the expense of car ownership, even for new car owners. Cars under warranty will typically require the use of manufacturer parts to retain cover, and the cost of these parts can vary a lot between manufacturers. Failure to take the cost of spares into consideration can easily result in unpleasant surprises when the time comes for a routine part replacement in your vehicle.
Insurance is likely to make up a big portion of the monthly bill for car ownership, particularly for first-timeand new car owners. If you don’t factor the cost of insuring the car into your calculations before deciding to purchase it you can easily fall into the trap of buying more car than you can afford.
If you’re a good driver and want to save on your car insurance then download the free UbiCar app to score your driving so that you can be rewarded with fairer car insurance rates that are based on how well you drive.