It’s a rare (and frankly, terrifying) person who loves haggling for every purchase. Add a large-ticket item such as a new car to the equation and things can get positively nail-biting. Assuming you don’t want to pay more than you should for that gleaming set of wheels you’ve been dreaming about, we’ve got some tips to help those champagne tastes and beer budgets align right where they should: in the car showroom.

Timing is everything

Got a fist full of dollars ready to burn at your nearest dealership? Research your purchase but steer clear of dealerships until you’re in a golden period of purchasing. This can be near the end of the month when dealers – desperate to meet monthly sales targets – are more likely to bend to your demands of a decent discount, during EOFY car sales, or in December. This is the time of year when dealerships frantically try to sell cars (often at terrific discounts) before cars become last year’s models (the car manufacturing equivalent of fish ’n’ chip paper).

Also, we don’t advocate turning up at a dealership with fistfuls of cash.

Research is essential

Car salesman can smell ignorance and uncertainty the way I can hone in on a hidden piece of fruit in my daughter’s school bag. To help negotiations work in your favour, be sure to research the pricing structure of the car/s you’re interested in, paying close attention to the invoice price (the amount the deal pays the car manufacturer) rather than the sticker price. Ideally, you want to negotiate with that invoice price in your head.

It isn’t just the purchase price that’s important, you’ll also need to research the cost of rego and comprehensive insurance, as well as potential repairs and service fees. The total sum will be the true cost of your new vehicle.

Focus on fuel efficiency

The car you have your heart set on might appear kind on the hip pocket, but that’s going to make little difference in the long run if it’s a fuel-guzzling machine. All the information you’ll need can be found on the yellow sticker on the windscreen, but if you’d like to compare with similar vehicles from other car brands, check out the GreenVehicleGuide.

Include a third (and sometimes a fourth) party

Don’t for one second believe you can trust a word the dealer is telling you. One thing you can bank on, however, is just how effective it can be to play dealerships against one another. Shop around, negotiate the first round with each party and then see who’s willing to undercut the offer. While we’re on the topic of trust, do not believe your dealer when he says he’s not going to make any money for the sale. Nope, he’s just trying to stop you from driving a hard bargain.

Trust in the professionals

Not sure what kind of car you’d like, only that you want it to represent the best value money can buy? Look no further than the Kia Cerato S, winner of 2022 Drive Car of the Year Best Value Car. Priced from $26,990 (including Safety Pack), the car (available as a sedan or hatchback) had Drive Comparisons Editor Glenn Butler in a spin with the value it offers, from the retained value and cheap comprehensive insurance costs to its respectable fuel efficiency of 7.4L/100km.

The cost of owning a Cerato is just $74.25 per week for all out-of-pocket expenses, and while Butler admits it’s not the smallest sum in Drive’s survey, he explains “the Cerato’s drive-away price advantage means it will be a long time before any other car could have saved you more money”.

Dilvin Yasa

Dilvin Yasa is a journalist, author and commentator. Her vast array of work has been published around the world.

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