The average New Zealander buys a new car every three to five years. And while some people are very knowledgeable about cars and know exactly what they want, the rest of us flounder with knowing where to start.
There are thousands of different varieties of car on the New Zealand market, advises The Car Brokers managing director Nick Tyler. To narrow your search down to just one, is it any wonder we feel overwhelmed?
When you go to a car broker you get help to narrow those options down. A broker will also negotiate the best price for you, and the best finance deal. But whether you go with a broker or not, here Nick gives his top car-buying tips so you can be confident in your decision.
This is your first step, says Nick. "You must know your budget. It dictates everything.
"Be very precise," he adds, "because a difference of as little as $1000 or $2000 can see a big difference in the quality of the vehicle you're buying."
If you have a large or growing family, that will immediately rule out a number of varieties of cars.
SUVs are the fastest-growing family car in New Zealand - people like them for their ride height and space, Nick says.
But seven seaters also remain popular and the good news is that advances in technology mean bigger-engine cars – which have traditionally had a reputation for being gas guzzlers - are becoming more fuel-efficient, Nick says. (More on that later.)
Will you be using it off-road or to commute to work in the city? Do you need to tow something? Do you often take long road trips?
Do you need a big boot for camping trips or transporting kids' sports gear? Do you need a 4WD because you live in a colder climate and need extra traction or go off road?
Do you have mobility issues or very small family members who need you to lift them in and out of car seats?
Parents with little ones will likely have more peace of mind with a vehicle that has a reversing camera. (Remember too that this can be added if you find the car of your dreams which has everything but the camera.)
Some people can't live without a tow bar or cruise control.
Do you prefer the upholstery to be leather (rather than cloth) so that it's easier to keep clean?
Are you after the best fuel economy or something that will tow the caravan at Christmas?
Nick advises that while smaller engines are generally more fuel-efficient, bigger-engine cars are becoming more fuel efficient too.
"Sometimes it can be the age of the car that makes the difference. If you compared a 10-year-old vehicle with a 1.5 litre engine to a new release vehicle with a 2.0 litre engine, the new release vehicle could be the more fuel-efficient," he explains.
"Take Mazda - they've developed a technology called Sky Activ Technology which is not only about the efficiency of the engine but also the surrounding chassis of the car, so they use lighter materials... the car weighs less so it uses less power to get it to move.
"Fuel type makes a difference too. Premium fuel can have a better impact on performance and efficiency than the standard fuel, 91."
At the same time also think about factors such as whether you prefer wagons, sedans, SUVs or hatchbacks, for example.
Do you prefer the car to be under a certain age?
Do you prefer manuals to automatics? Nick warns that 90 to 95 per cent of new cars in New Zealand are automatic, so this may limit your search considerably.
Now that you've considered all of the above, you're 95 per cent there in terms of narrowing down your search.
Now it's time to dig deeper, advises Nick - starting with the safety ratings on your preferred makes and models.
"We look at rightcar.govt.nz. This is a government website that gives the safety ratings on all vehicles in NZ."
Pre-purchase inspections are an absolute must for private sales, Nick says. You also need to do a history check - The Car Brokers use motorweb.co.nz.
"A history check will point out red flags such as whether the vehicle was imported as a damaged vehicle," says Nick.
"It will also bring up any anomalies with the odometer. That's how you can tell whether it's been wound back.
"It will tell you how many owners it's had, whether there's any finance owing on the vehicle or if there's an interested party on the car, which has the right to seize the car if its previous owner does not complete payments on it, even though it's not theirs any more."
Registered car dealers are legally required to give you a CIN (Consumer Information Notice), which gives you the same information as above.
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