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Follow this game plan when buying a new car

Freedom, fashion, function and fun are just a few of the perks of owning a car. While buying a new car is exciting, the process to find the right one for you does come with some challenges.

Most frustration and anxiety come from a lack of preparation and know-how when researching, inspecting and test-driving cars, and of coursenegotiating with car dealers. But fear not, by doing a little bit of homework you can build the confidence you need to happily purchase your next car.


Couple using laptop


Outline your needs and research your options

First things first, how will you use your vehicle and what type of vehicle are you interested in? If you’re looking for a sporty sedan, list all of the ones you’ve got in mind and that fit your needs. Next, pop open a few web sites like BCAA Canadian Black Book, Consumer Reports or Edmunds to get lists of comparable cars in the same category.

This helps in a number of ways: it will jog your memory on a few more makes and models, you’ll get to see how they compare at a glance, you’ll find in-depth reviews and discover the reliability and maintenance costs you can expect.

You’ll also notice many vehicle categories have Hybrid versions of the same cars you’re comparing. Effectively, these cars and trucks will look and feel the same but have the added bonus of fuel-saving technology that positively impacts the environment. While the initial cost might be a bit higher, they can save you money down the road. There's a lot to consider, so give yourself plenty of time to research.


Prepare your wallet

While it’s easy to buy groceries every week, buying a car is a rare event. Vehicles come with built-in expenses that need to be factored into the overall cost. In addition to sales tax, registration and insurance costs, put aside some money for a mechanical inspection. You may also want to consider an extended warranty for repairs, if needed. It's also a good idea to keep a small maintenance fund ($500 to $1000) for the unexpected. These costs can add up in a hurry which leads to the next point.

Most of us don’t have an extra $25,000 sitting in the bank, so that might mean taking out a loan. It's a good idea to explore your options, such as the best interest rates before you purchase. Then decide how much you want to pay for the car - set a maximum and don't go over it. This will be key when you start negotiating with the seller or dealer.


Car dashboard

Test driving

The test drive is where you’ll really begin to feel if the car is right for you or not. Don’t be shy on putting the vehicle through its paces and testing the acceleration, braking, turning radius, and gear shifting. Also check out the design of the dashboard, climate control, stereo and navigational features, and don’t forget to check the blind spots.


Extra considerations

New vehicles have all the goodies: the latest safety, navigation and entertainment technology. While pre-owned vehicles may cost less, many will have already depreciated roughly 40% in the first three years. As you weigh the differences, here are a few more considerations:


USED

  • If it’s a used car, ask the seller about its accident record, history of ownership and service record. If the seller is cooperative in answering your questions, chances are good that they have nothing to hide. Plus, as a BCAA Member you can gain full access to our BCAA Canadian Black Book to get and compare used car trade-in and retain prices.

NEW

  • What's the warranty coverage? Are there any perks like free maintenance?
  • Are there any dealer demo vehicles available for purchase? You can get a healthy discount and drive away with the manufacturer's latest model. While technically pre-owned, dealer demos have usually been well-maintained and gently driven.

Ask the golden question

“Is that the best you can do?” is the best question to ask whether you’re negotiating for a new or used car. It signals you’re prepared to walk away. For many people, the toughest part of the whole process is actually being ready to walk away if you don’t like the answer. Remember, it’s your money and your decision.


Before you buy

As you get close to making your final decision, you’ll want some peace of mind. For a used car, do a lien and accident search to see if there’s any undisclosed history. And, don’t forget to have a reputable auto mechanic do an inspection, too. For your convenience, visit a local BCAA Auto Service Centre and have one of our friendly Red Seal Certified technicians provide you with a thorough Pre-Purchase Vehicle Inspection. This 176-point mechanical and system performance examination will give you peace-of-mind and help you ensure your car is in great working condition.


Protect your investment

Whether you buy new or used, consider optional car insurance for more coverage. At BCAA, you can choose between BCAA Optional Car Insurance or what’s offered by ICBC.

For new model vehicles, check your car insurance for Car Replacement Cost Coverage. If your car is stolen and not recovered, or is significantly damaged, your insurer might replace it with a brand new car of the same make and specification. BCAA’s Optional Car Insurance offers Replacement Cost Coverage Plus as an add-on. It covers vehicles up to 5 model years old and requires that damage repair costs be only 50% of the actual cash value of the vehicle. Speak to your insurance adviser about your policy so you know what’s covered, and what’s not.