Top 10 new car buying checklist

Buying a new car or SUV in 2018 is one of the most exciting times of your life, but can be a stressful minefield. With a little research before taking the plunge, you can avoid the most common pitfalls of the new car buyer, leaving only the joy of new car ownership, without being ripped-off.
Although many of us are time poor, it can pay dividends to spend some time doing the following before splashing out on a new car to avoid a potential nightmare. Here is the Top10Cars checklist for buying a new car.

Research the type of car you’re after

You probably have a good idea of what car you’re after, or the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Next work out your priorities. Fuel economy, rear space, or legroom- wheatever it is, reading road tests such as those on can give you an idea of which car meets your needs. Is there a particular feature you’re looking for? For example, type into a search engine: most economical car, most economical 7-seater, best hot hatch, best medium car, etc depending on your desired car.
Doing the hard yards before you enter a dealership is crucial to avoiding buyers remorse.

Remember, most salespeople will try and keep you at the dealership as long as possible to try and close the sale on first visit, so stay firm if you haven’t made up your mind yet.

Make a shortlist

Once you’ve found some potential candidates, narrow them down to a list. Comparisons are a good way to find out what two or more models from your shortlist are like to live with in the real world. Be aware that sometimes fuel economy claims conducted in a laboratory are difficult to repeat in traffic conditions, so reading a road test can give you a good idea of what to expect from someone who is professionally trained to thoroughly assess the car.

Find problems for particular car, quality surveys

Researching recall information, buyer experiences such as those on Whirlpool forums, or car reliability surveys can give you a good idea of whether or not other people have had issues with a particular car. There are many accounts of people who have had issues with their car only to have the dealer refuse to address the issue properly.

Best time to buy a new car

Generally speaking, dealers are looking to clear stock around the end of year or end of financial year after June 30. This is why end of financial year sales, or EOFYS events are advertised as a way to clear stock and dealer inventory. Discounts are most generous at the end of a cars production cycle, and least so when a redesigned model has arrived. High demand means less need for the dealer to discount.

Another thing to be mindful of is compliance date and build date. Especially now that we only import cars to Australia and no longer build them, the build plate and compliance plate can vary. For example, a car built in December 2017 but complied in January 2018 will probably be treated as a 2018 model at time of purchase, but a 2017 model at time of trade-in, reducing its value significantly.

Avoid demonstrators if possible

Demonstrator vehicles can be a good go-to alternative for the salesman if a price for the new vehicle can’t be agreed upon. Be aware though that by definition demonstrators are the test-drive vehicles for potential customers and are also the cars that the salesman take home after work more often than not.

Estimated delivery time, could be delayed

If you want an uncommon colour choice, or a car that has to be factory built with your options, then chances are it is not sitting in the inventory and you can expect a longer delivery time. It can take several weeks, or even months for delivery from where the car is being built. Try and factor in a loan car on the off chance that there are further delays after the contract is signed.


Dealerships have specialised finance departments who often close the sale after the vehicle has been test-driven. Knowing your credit rating and financial status gives you a big advantage, and it’s best to shop around on a specialist website such as Canstar for the best option to fit your circumstances.

There are some horror stories of customers being told they’re eligible for finance when they weren’t, so they go through with the loan application only to get knocked back. The net result is a blemish on their credit score and a delay in deposit being refunded.

Brokers are an interesting option, often promising that they have extra buying power that gives them fleet discounts for private customers, but often this is unsubstantiated. The broker approaches a dealership, with whom they have a special arrangement (i.e. a brokerage fee), who then informs them how much margin they have in the car. While this can be handy for those who (understandably) don’t wish to approach a dealership, the margins are often quite similar. Keep an open mind and a healthy dose of skepticism.

You don’t have to go to a dealership to service your new car

Servicing your car at a local dealership is convenient a lot of the time and many of the mechanics are well-trained specialists for your vehicle. Most new car manufacturers have capped-price servicing across the board, which gives more predictability than the bad old days too.
Conversely, sometimes younger mechanics can thrash your car when you’re not looking and some leading mobile mechanics can offer significantly cheaper prices, while still stamping your logbook. Make sure you bargain hard with them, though.

Beware of aftersales

After the deal is done, an aftersales specialist will sit down with you while you’re feeling warm and fuzzy about your new car in an effort to squeeze more profit out of you. Things like paint protection, rear seat entertainment, seat covers, best car polish, aftermarket accessories such as roof racks, bike rack, towbar can be packaged into finance. Some of these can be useful features that you’re after, but more often than not, you can get them much cheaper elsewhere.

If you have a lemon

If you’ve found yourself in a predicament and your car is experiencing issues or is just generally a lemon, find out where you stand and what the best course of action to take is. Here are some handy resources on the matter if you find yourself in this situation.

Fair Trading

Thanks for reading and happy buying. If you have any thoughts on this list or anything you think we should’ve added, then feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

If you are looking to buy a new car and you live in Australia, we can help. Our dealer network and bulk-buying power can save you $1000s. And better still, you don’t have to haggle with salespeople – we’ll do it for you. Head over to our car buying page for a free, no-obligation quote!