New car buying guide for first-time buyers

New car buying guide for first-time buyers
PHOTO: sgCarMart

First time buying a car? No worries, there is always a first time for everyone. If you have no one to guide you along, read on, and benefit from our advice.

What car model to get

Buying a car may be one of the biggest purchases in your life. As such, you should invest considerable time to think about what you want to prevent any impulse decision. When buying a car, you should narrow down your choices according to your needs and stick to your initial criteria so that you do not make a wrong choice.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1) What is my budget - Set your budget, and DO NOT exceed it

2) What type of car do I need - Do you need a large MPV to ferry your whole family? Or is your driving so atrocious that you need a small car in order not to be too much of a road hazard?

3) What brand of car do I want - Narrow down your selection to a few brands. Choosing from too many brands can be very tiring and time-consuming - but by the time you've gone through questions 1 and 2, knowing the answer here should be easier too.

After answering these three questions, you should have shortlisted not more than five specific car models to consider. During the rest of the car selection and buying procedure, you will meet many persuasive salespeople. But you should be resolute and keep to your initial considerations.

When is a good time to buy a car

Newly launched car models are normally priced higher. Be patient and wait for a while for the price to drop before you make your purchase.

Promotions, anniversary discounts, roadshows, etc, are sometimes carefully crafted to attract buyers. The car prices are usually jacked up before the discounts. Don't rush into a hasty purchase decision during these these flashy 'promotional seasons', if the prices don't match up with what you'd have paid originally anyway.

The only time when car prices truly go down is when the COE price decreases. A genuine good buy is when the COE is low (although that's understandably a rare sight these days).

The COE bidding closes every first and third Wednesday of the month. It is not advisable to purchase a car within the three days before the COE closes. This is the period when most dealers will increase their prices to safeguard against COE spikes.

Weekdays are best for visiting the showroom as it is less crowded. The sales personnel will tend to be more attentive and obliged to answer all your doubts.

Where is a good place to buy a car

Both Ubi and Leng Kee car belts have the highest concentration of authorised distributor showrooms. Parallel import dealers are mostly based at four car marts all over Singapore.

Car belts

- Ubi Car Belt - Along Eunos Link

- Leng Kee Car Belt - Along Alexandra Road and Leng Kee Road

Six car marts

- Automobile Megamart

- Leng Kee Autopoint

- Car Mall @ The Grandstand

- West Coast Car Mart

- Carros Centre

- Mackenzie Car Mall

What to do at the showroom

The car showroom is a place for interested buyers to view the car before they make the decision to purchase the car. It is advisable to bring along your family members, as they can offer valuable advice and feedback.

Once you are there, be assured that there will be a car salesperson to attend to you. Do not hesitate to clear your doubts with the salesperson. Tell him or her the car you are interested in, and other car models you are considering. This way, the staff on hand can explain to you the advantages of the particular model.

Most models comes in a few variants and trim levels. You will have to decide on the model which suits your budget and requirements best. Do not feel obligated to buy purely from the salesperson who attends to you. You should be buying the car you like, not buying a car from the salesperson you like.

What to do during a test drive

Do NOT always just test drive the vehicles in your shortlist. First time buyers usually have little driving experience. They might find it hard to differentiate between a good car and a bad one.

If you are aiming for an honest, no-frills car like the Perodua Bezza, test drive a vehicle slightly above your budget like the Toyota Vios.

This way, you can make a more informed decision, knowing clearly where potential differences may lie. When going to the showroom to test drive, always ask friends and relatives to go along to obtain feedback from the passengers. You don't want to be the only one enjoying the comfort of your car.

Area Point to note
Engine For a start, try to stay in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 rpm as that is the region you are most likely to stay in during normal driving.

On the straight road, step hard on the accelerator to see what is the time lag between you depressing the accelerator to the moment the car sprints off. Finally, check that the engine noise is tolerable.
Handling If you are confident, take on a corner at some speed. A good vehicle has little body roll. You should have full control of the car even at high speed. 
Gearbox A good automatic transmission shifts up or down with minimal jerk and should be responsive to your foot command. 
Brakes When doing test drives, always start off slow and try to grasp the car's braking characteristic. Some brakes are highly sensitive and the braking response comes almost immediately after you set your foot on the pedal. 
Cabin space Adjust the driver's seat to your preferred driving position. Do check with your friends and relatives to see if there is sufficient leg room at the rear cabin for comfortable seating. 
Boot space If you occasionally haul around items such as golf bags, do check with the sales person to see if they will fit. They will give you very good advice based on their experience. If it is convenient, you can even bring it down to the showroom to try the cabin space. 

How to negotiate

The car showroom is not a wet market. Do not go in straight with a price that is much lower than the listed price. You might want to try following the steps below to negotiate for discounts.

1) Subtly ask the salesperson for discounts and freebies.

2) Make sure that the salesperson is offering you discounts and freebies above what the company is offering to the standard buyer. Excellent service should be expected, considering the hefty amounts we pay for our cars.

3) After the salesman has quoted the discount, try nudging for a higher discount.

4) If all else fails, turn your efforts instead to freebies. Sales personnel are more willing to give freebies rather than discounts.

Choosing the colour

Always choose the car model before deciding on the colour. Certain colours may not be available for certain models. The vehicle colour is up to personal preferences, but rational thinking should also come into play.

It is advisable to choose metallic colours like silver and champagne for your car. Pure colours like white and black are difficult to maintain as they do not hide dirt and scratches well. Thus, they often require waxing and polishing.

How long must you wait for your car

Buying a car is not like going to a market; it is not cash-and-carry. The waiting time for the car can range from two weeks to six months, especially with the recent supply chain disruptions seen over the last two years. Before purchasing the car, always check with the salesperson on the expected waiting time to get your vehicle.

Making a booking

If you intend to make a booking for the vehicle, remember to bring along your I/C and income proof. Income proof is necessary for loan application.

The next step is to place a booking fee to confirm your order. Payment can be either by Cash, Cheque, Credit Card or Nets. However, note that by default, Nets has a withdrawal limit of only S$2,000 per day. Booking fees may exceed S$2,000 depending on the car model. After having placed the booking fee, the sales executive will contact you again for your next stage of payment.

Usually the sales executive will contact you once your COE has been successfully bidded, and the second stage of payment would usually be one week before collection of the car. In Stage Two, payment will include the following:

1) Balance payment on car price less loan amount

2) First instalment of loan

3) 1-year insurance premium

An earlier version of this article was first published on Sgcarmart on Sept 13, 2007.

This article was first published in sgCarMart.

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