How to Save Money When Buying a Car

by Melanie May | 4 min read

December 17th, 2018

If you’re looking to buy a new or new-to-you car there are some bargains to be had without having to import. You just need to be a little savvy with your shopping. To help you save some cash when car shopping, we’ve put together a list of our top tips for dealing with the dealers and driving a car away at a reasonable price.

Pre-Registered

The practice of pre-registering (when dealers and car makers essentially sell cars to themselves to boost sales figures) means there are some ‘one previous owner’ cars to be snapped up. Negotiate well and you could buy a pre-registered model for around 17% less than a new version.

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Ex-Demo

Demonstrator cars have been registered to a garage so that the car can be used for customers to test drive. As these cars are show cars, they usually come well equipped with a host of optional extras.

Dealerships generally need to hold on to these cars for around 3 months or so, in order to get a discount from the manufacturer for registering and using a car as a demonstrator. When this time is up, the car is then sold at a discount of up to €4,000 off the price of a new model.

The discount will reflect a few different facts:

  1. The car has already had one previous owner – the dealership – and that there is some mileage on the clock – roughly 300-10,000km. The higher the mileage, the greater the discount.
  2. The car might have a few marks from use, but you can always ask the dealer to touch up any marks you do find and to polish out any scuffs
  3. The manufacturer’s warranty starts when the car is first registered. Therefore, if the ex-demo car is 6 months old it is 6 months into its warranty.

Use these as bargaining tools. Rest assured, these ex-demo cars are usually very well maintained as they are used to help drive sales.

Run-Out Model

Each year a number of new model cars are introduced and bargain price tags are slapped on to the models that they are replacing. For 2019, new models on the way include the new Audi A1, Mazda3, Opel Corsa and Peugeot 208. So, you could save a lot of money on one of these run-out models.

The savings can be significant, especially if a dealer has a lot of stock of the old model to clear before the new one arrives.

Buy a Car That’s At Least 1 Year Old

A new car depreciates in value by thousands of euros as soon as you drive it out of the showroom. After 1 year, that same car is worth around 19% less. After 3 years it’s around 35% less. (https://www.motorcheck.ie/blog/motor-depreciation-reliability-keeps-lid-depreciation/)

For those trying to save money on a car purchase, it would be wise to shop for cars that are at least 1 year old but even wiser to shop for a car that is at least 3 years old.

Good Value Retention

Easily find a model that retains its value well by doing a quick Google search. It’s important to do a new search when you’re buying a car as the data will change from year to year.

Analysis carried out this year shows the used cars that retained their value the most from when they were new in 2014/15 are the Skoda Octavia, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Passat and the Ford Focus. (https://blog.donedeal.ie/2018/07/the-donedeal-ie-motor-industry-review-h1-2018/)

Off-Season

Four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles are desirable in the winter so buying off-season, i.e. in the spring and summer months, should save you some money as you get ahead of the price curve.

The same goes for convertibles. Buying a drop top in the winter should save you some cash as prices climb in the warmer months when demand is higher.

Shop at the Right Time

Avoid shopping for a car in January, February and March, which are strong months for sales. Instead, shop in May, June, November, and December when sales of new cars are slow while people are waiting for the new registration period.

Most car dealers work to monthly and quarterly sales targets so waiting until the end of the month or quarter is a good idea to go out and negotiate yourself a deal.

This especially applies to the last selling day in January, when dealers are trying to hit their first-month target and collect their post-Christmas bonuses; the last selling day in June, which is the last day of the registration period, so dealers will be trying to sell stock to make way for newly registered cars; and the last selling day in December before the new plates appear.

Dealerships and showrooms are usually quieter midweek than at weekends. Your bargaining power is strengthened when demand is lower.

You should also keep an eye out for bank holiday and other sales events that occur periodically throughout the year. When there is a bank holiday on the way, ring around your local dealers or search online for upcoming offers. You can also ask dealerships to put you on their marketing lists and you’ll get an email or a text when sales events are happening. You’ll also get invited to some great customer events.

Be Open Minded

If you remain flexible about car colours and optional extras (do you really need a heated steering wheel?), then you could potentially bag a bargain especially if you hit the showrooms at those key end-of-period dates. Just head to your local dealer and see what cars they need to get rid of fast and be confident and get haggling.

Shop Around

Taking your time to test drive and check out a few different examples of the model you want could save you a lot of money. Shopping around will ensure that you make a rational and informed decision and you’ll be able to compare prices and go with the car that offers the best value for money.

Check the Car’s History

If you’re looking at buying a used car, it’s important that you check its history and carry out a background check. Most reputable car history websites can confirm details of a vehicle such as the chassis (VIN) numbers, last recorded mileage, and any information relating to whether the vehicle has a previous history of being a write-off. These reports don’t cost much money but can end up saving you a fortune and prevent you from buying a lemon.

Of course, the best time to buy a car is when you feel ready and when you have found the car that suits your needs and your budget. However, bearing these tips in mind and shopping at the key times mentioned above will hopefully help you get a better deal and bag a bargain.

About the author

bio image for Melanie May
Melanie May

Journalist @thejournal_ie & @CompleteCar * Social Media & Digital Marketing Manager * Travel Blogger * Food Writer & Judge * Roadtrip Lover * Recipe Developer