Car Buying Tips with Money Matchmaker®

3 Critical Steps When Purchasing a New Car in 2022

Written by

Scott Murray

It’s far too easy to simply buy the newer version of your old car, and it’s probably too good to be true. Here’s how to research your next new car with integrity and a clear plan of attack.

When was the last time you bought a new car?

Now, exactly how much do you know about the car industry, that brand, that model and your own changing circumstances since then? Buying a new car is not a trivial thing, so you shouldn’t treat it like buying a new toaster or self-assembly furniture. The wrong choice can cost you thousands of dollars.

So, here’s how you can find the right new car for your life.

1. Research comes first

Pull out the old-fashioned Pros & Cons list first and foremost, because you need to think about what they need this new car to do.

What can you live without? I’d suggest sunroofs, premium stereos and bigger wheels are not critical to this kind of purchase. Not only will it cost more (and let’s face it, you’re buying, not them, right?), it will also make the vehicle heavier, which means it will take longer to stop in an emergency braking situation. Look up Newton’s first law, if you don’t believe me.

Next, you need to take your Pro list and put a little asterisk on the features you think you can live without if the cars you eventually look at don’t have.

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For example, your list might look like this

Pro

  • Auto emergency braking
  • adaptive cruise control
  • power-folding mirrors*
  • LED headlights
  • AndroidAuto/Apple CarPlay
  • tyre pressure monitoring*
  • satnav*

Con

  • Sunroof
  • alloy wheels/big wheels
  • amplifier/premium stereo
  • turbocharged engine
  • leather seats

Doing this will help guide you a little bit further down the car selection road. If you live in the country, you may not need auto-folding mirrors (because of generous parking everywhere), but big bright LED headlights you do. City dwellers might desperately need auto-folding mirrors, but can happily live with ordinary halogen headlights because the streets are lit.

Okay, now you need to make a shortlist of vehicles that have as many of those important features as possible. Here’s a bunch of Top 10 best cars lists to help save you time. Your shortlist needs to be a maximum of five cars long, because you’re only going to get cognitively twisted up trying to keep track of which vehicles do and don’t do what you need them to.

Lots of vehicles have tyre pressure monitoring, auto emergency braking and a big boot, but not many these days also offer a full-size spare tyre, a diesel engine with reasonable towing capacity at the same time. Some base models get all the safety gear you might expect, but lack adaptive cruise control, while some models have it available at a cheaper price, but you have to settle with the sub-optimal powertrain or a space-saver spare tyre.

This is where your research is crucial. Study your own driving habits and expectations for the next couple of years. Ask yourself and your partner, or your adult children, or your mother-in-law what they’re going to use the vehicle for 90 per cent of the time.

Put aside the 1-in-10 times they might visit the country or wander down the coastal backroads, because most vehicles can handle that stuff on occasion.

You don’t need a LandCruiser to drive the Great Ocean Road, and a small hatchback can handle gravel winery driveways, and most SUVs are quite okay on bumpy dirt roads into a campsite.

Find the 90 per cent usage case, which is either going to be regional/rural, or metropolitan/suburban/city. Now you can build your shortlist of five cars.

2. Deciding on the right model upgrade

Now we’re getting to the pointy end of the research stage - so you need to pay attention.

Before we start this section, establish what your budget is. Is it a concrete budget, or does it have a range? Can you budge a few grand here or there, or do you need to be restrained? These are questions only you can answer. But you need to know the answers before going any further, because each model-grade up you go will add between $1000 or sometimes $7000-$10,000 depending on the vehicle you’re looking for.

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This is where you look at the models with the primary features you need, like a diesel engine, towing capacity and all-wheel drive because you live in regional Australia on a property and rarely visit a city - or you’re a hardcore concrete jungle type whose workhorse needs to deal with bluestone kerbs, school drop-offs in stop-start traffic and crawling along motorways during peak-hour return trips. And on weekends, you might saunder off to a winery or shopping centre, maybe to the beach.

Do you do regular long-weekend camping trips, do you pitch a tent or tow a caravan, or is it fixed accommodation and enjoying the facilities that you prefer?

Is this the primary vehicle, or the second car with infrequent use once or twice a week?

Now, you need to find the vehicles with the most features you need, and see which of those asterisks from your Pro list you don’t get. Then apply any budget constraints to that list.

If you need an SUV with all-wheel drive and a big boot because you take the kids adventuring a lot, but Monday-to-Friday you’re a tram-dodging, kerb-crunching, traffic-carving mum-on-a-mission, then you might want to consider a petrol-engined base model which you’ll never get emotionally attached to but will take the hits, the chocolate fingers and yet comes with all the safety gear designed to save your bacon at the last moment.

Alternatively, if you live in the outer suburbs and take freeways everywhere multiple times a week, then a modern, smooth diesel engine might be ideal for fuel economy while enduring the cross-town demands of perhaps visiting clients and carrying a lot of stuff with you.

Once you’ve figured out which model grade you’re going to go for, based on your personal usage case, your budget and the features you need it to have, now - and only now - should you go check out your shortlist in person, at the dealership.

NOW STOP.

3. Doing your homework is not sitting the test

It is absolutely critical at this point of the process that you DO NOT ENGAGE in the purchase phase.

You are still in the Research phase of buying your next new car. Research does not mean you are ready to buy. Why?

Because you have not found out, in person, which vehicle you are going to hate or love the most.

You haven’t put your double pram in the boot only to discover it doesn’t fit between the wheelarches.

You haven’t learned whether you can adequately fit in the driver’s seat because you’re, perhaps, exceptionally tall or short or wide or skinny - or a combination thereof.

You don’t know what it’s like to drive a CVT transmission versus a regular epicyclic automatic or versus a dual-clutch transmission.

Do you desperately need sunvisors with pull-out extensions, or deep door storage bins, or a full-size spare tyre, or a low bootlip height, maybe the tailgate opens too low and you’re going to scalp yourself every single time you try to access the tiny (or too big) boot space.

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This is why you’re still doing your homework.

So, when the sales person at the dealership approaches you, desperate to strike up a conversation, looking completely and unfairly well groomed and possibly even a little bit attractive - do not say anything other than, “I’m just looking, thanks.”

If however, you have a specific question regarding your research - like locating the spare wheel, or asking how to operate the third row seats, or attempting to connect your phone and make a call - then, and only then, should you approach them for help.

Once they’ve answered your questions, again, do not discuss price. Do not give them any information about yourself, your personal situation, or your driving habits, unless you are trying to answer a specific question.

The reason for your not-forthcoming behaviour is because the salesperson is going to try to persuade you that their vehicle is perfectly suited to whatever situation you’re in. They’ll try to tell you the AWD is perfect for taking the kids camping - which it is, but only if you do it regularly, down sketchy country roads - but not if you do green-grass Big4 Holiday Parks with sealed driveways in highly-populated tourist towns with full mobile reception.

In fact, you might be quite fine taking the mid-spec front-wheel drive 2.0-litre petrol option which is lighter and therefore can take greater payload and is dynamically more safe to stop in an emergency braking scenario with the kids and hubby on board for the long weekend on an unfamiliar road.

You’ll probably still get all the lane-keeping, auto emergency braking, curtain, knee and front-centre airbags, but you’re 200kgs lighter than the diesel AWD option which the dealer would rather sell you for an extra $4000. That’s $4000 of petrol, roof racks, university savings or birthday presents, perhaps a little more to put toward your mortgage, whatever.

Conclusion

Take your bulky pram to the dealerships, take your kids, and take your hard-arsed fact-finding brain to the dealership and arrange to take as many test drives as close together as possible so that you can compare each vehicle more immediately; that way you’re less likely to forget things. And speaking of, take a notepad and pen, get the kids or your partner to help, ask a friend to write stuff down for you. This is all research and considering you’re about to spend tens of thousands on a new car that has to last for years, it’s worthwhile.

And lastly, try very hard not to judge or dismiss a vehicle based on looks, especially externally. Aesthetics are subjective, and I know it’s hard to ignore our inner artist.

But striking an otherwise ideal vehicle off your list - one which ticks almost every box - just because the headlights or grille or the boot look a bit weird, could leave you with an inferior vehicle that annoys you every single day for the next five years.

Next, we’ll walk through how to actually test drive the vehicles on your shortlist (because it’s not as simple as you think it is), and then I’ll teach you how to buy your chosen new car, while saving a big stack of money (read more about how to save on car loans here too), and keeping your dignity intact.

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About the Author

Scott Murray from BestFamilyCars.com.au

Scott

Murray

Scott Murray

BestFamilyCars offers honest information & discounts for your next new car. Our lives depend on cars, but most reviews don’t answer the real questions. I live with the cars I test, to report their strengths and weaknesses, ad free

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