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Mouthy Money Your Questions Answered panelist Hugo Griffiths answers a reader’s question on how to decide when the right time is to get a new car.
Question: We need to buy a new car by September as our family is growing. Should we do it now or wait till the last minute as I’ve heard car prices are going to fall this year?
We have an old car that I’m worried might need expensive repairs in the meantime, leaving us with less cash for the new purchase.
Answer: The best advice I can give you is to buy a car that meets your needs now and in the foreseeable future, and don’t worry too much about values.
Timing the sale and purchase of a car to the month could mean you’re setting yourself up for potential disappointment, not least because values of second-hand vehicles have fluctuated so much in the last few years.
It may seem obvious, but focus on your lifestyle and how you drive when shortlisting different models. Think about what your typical journeys look like: do you commute, and if so how regularly? Are you sharing the car with anyone else? How often do you drive longer distances? How much boot-space or back-seat space do you need for passengers or pets?
Secondly, take your time to do your research. There are lots of great websites that can help give you in-depth information on how to live with a car, not just how it drives.
Whether to buy new or used is another question to think about. Given your timeframe and the delays we’ve seen across car manufacturing, you’re unlikely to be able to get a ‘factory order’ new car built to any precise specifications ahead of your family’s expansion. Lengthy lead times are also continuing to affect some ‘stock’ (already built) cars – if they are in high demand.
My top tip here is to take a flexible approach when choosing your new car. Shortlist a handful of models that you would be happy with before you enquire into their availability, and be sure to ask early on about lead-times.
Seasonally, we find that the summer holidays tend to be a quieter time for car sales and June falls at the end of second quarter sales targets, so timing your shopping for next month could bring you a better bargain.
However, showrooms can still be at their busiest on the cusp of a plate change and new-car sales figures still peak in March and September every year, so this could be another reason to avoid changing your car at the last moment.
If you choose a new car, it will come with the reassurance of a manufacturer warranty, but if it’s a second-hand model you’re going for, condition and history are key. Be sure to see it in-person so you can inspect every panel of bodywork, press every button and flick every switch and, of course, scrutinise service records before signing anything.
Buying privately from an individual will be cheaper that buying an equivalent car from a second-hand car dealer, but this route carries more risk, and should be taken either with a fair deal of knowledge of what to look for, or a friend who has such knowledge.
Wherever you shop for your car, though, buy the seller as much as the car: if you don’t like the vendor’s vibes – they could seem too keen, or uninterested, or you could just get a ‘bad feeling’ from them – trust your instincts and shop elsewhere.
Hugo Griffiths is the consumer editor at Carwow.co.uk.
A qualified English teacher, Hugo made the switch to automotive journalism in 2016. He then spent four years writing for the UK’s biggest-selling weekly motoring magazine prior to joining Carwow in 2021 as its consumer editor, writing consumer-interest features and articles.
A car enthusiast for as long as he can remember, Hugo’s stories have made the front page of national newspapers and seen him interviewed on radio and TV.
Photo Credits: Pexels
Award-winning freelance journalist with a decade of experience working for online and print publications in the consumer sector.