How to get a new car at a bargain price

imageMotoring writer Neil Lyndon explains how to get a new car at a bargain price.

In a period when any capital investment is likely to lose you money, it’s horrible to be forced into a major purchase. However, for those who have no choice but to buy a new car, it could hardly be a better time.

If you can walk into a showroom with unencumbered funds to spend you ought, within reason, to be able to name your own price. The salesman will smile knowingly and try to kid you that he makes his money on part-exchange deals and hire purchase, but let him see a big bunch of fifties and see how fast his expression changes.

Before getting that far, however, the systematic punter should begin by checking the impartial surveys of customers’ experiences by Which? and the J  D Power study published by What Car?. Then look at best buys on Honest John’s website, and follow that up by scanning the lists on Warranty Direct, which grade the reliability of cars by the number of warranty claims made against them.

When you have decided which car you want to buy, go back to the What Car? Target Prices, which “show the most you should ever pay for your new car. If your dealer won’t match the Target Price, then contact [What Car?] and we’ll find one that will.”

A canny old car dealer I once knew recommended buying a new car when it was just about to be supplanted by another model. By that time the manufacturer will have sorted out any glitches and they will also be packing the car for free with all the extras for which they were charging grotesque sums when it first came out.

Following that philosophy, anybody on the lookout for a titchy city car might do worse than a Volkswagen Fox. This excellent little buzz-box will be replaced within weeks by the scintillating new VW Up, but you might buy one now for up to £1,000 less than its list price of £8,530. If you can find one, that is: VW says there are only three left in the country.

The same shifty car-dealer wisdom on models towards the end of their run might send you towards a Honda Civic if you needed a small car. A new Civic is imminent, but the outgoing model can still be found. What Car?’s target price is £14,995 — a saving of more than £3,000 on the list price.

Ford’s current Mondeo is far from the end of its run but this — maybe the best Ford ever — is a wonderful family car and the 2.0-litre TDCi version is not only the best buy in the range but you ought to be able to chisel it out of the dealer’s hands for around £5,000 less than the list price of £21,494.

The estate version of the Mondeo is equally praiseworthy but, for those who don’t need its whale’s maw of a load space, Vauxhall’s 1.6-litre Astra Sports Tourer is such an astonishing bargain that the buyer might be well-advised to beware. The What Car? website currently gives its list price as £18,830 and its target price as £11,995. With the near-£7,000 you might save, you could almost afford to buy a Fox – if you can find one.

For compact 4x4s, you can’t beat a Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI CR 110 SE, but don’t expect much off its £19,980 list price for two reasons: one, it’s cheap at the price; two, they are selling so many, they don’t need your money.

The same applies to Lexus’s IS250, the best buy among compact luxury cars. List price is £26,495 but you’d be doing well if you could get it for £1,000 less.

Among people carriers, the best buy is Ford’s C-Max 1.6, on which an appealing £4,000 discount might be found compared with its list price of £17,195.

These are all my own opinions, but since recommending cars is perilously like trying to fix up friends for romance, I take no responsibility if it all goes terribly wrong.

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