Four Questions to Ask Your Dealership Before Buying a New Car

Adulting is hard. We’re thrown head-first into a world of paying taxes, booking our own dental appointments, and making life-altering decisions (all while climbing the corporate ladder), when just a year or two ago our only responsibility was getting good marks at school and varsity.

Buying a new vehicle is one of those mega adult choices. You’ve saved up your pennies for a deposit, done your research around financing and insurance, and you’re ready to hit the dealerships. It’s one of the biggest financial decisions of your life – and as early-adult luck would have it, also one of the most complicated. Here are four questions you’ll need to ask to make sure you’re getting the right car – at the right price.

What is the total price, after fees and licensing?

When you see a price that seems too good to be true in a flashy TV ad, you should know that it probably is. Non-negotiable maintenance plans, warranties, windscreen protection, licensing fees, plus other extras and add-ons can quickly add up. You may find that the car you could just afford is suddenly pushed into a whole new price bracket, leaving you to eat beans on toast every day while you pay it off. Don’t get caught unawares. Make sure you know exactly what you can afford, and exactly what you’ll be expected to pay per month when every expense is taken into account.

Has it been used as a demo, and has it been damaged in any way?
Just because a car is marketed as new and has a low mileage, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “new” in the way you’d expect. If somebody else has been driving it – even for a short time – there’s no guarantee they’ve been careful, so you need to know beforehand. And if a car has had a previous driver, it’s always a good idea to take a closer look for any potential damage it may have sustained – both inside and outside. Ask an independent mechanic to take a look under the hood for you before you make your decision, and be on the lookout for signs of covered-up bumps, scrapes and repair work.

What do the warranty and service plan cover?

Buying a car is one thing, but as any vehicle owner will tell you, that’s only the beginning. Maintaining your car is essential for years of good service, and to get a decent price when you decide to move on up and sell it. Many people are so starry-eyed over their vision of driving a new vehicle off the showroom floor that they neglect to take the cost of maintenance into account. Having spent such a significant chunk of cash, some even decide to opt out of service plans to save a buck or two. This can be a serious mistake if you don’t have the cashflow to do repairs and maintenance work on the fly. So, be sure you’re covered, and be sure you know exactly what your coverage entails so you can budget for unexpected mishaps.

Can I take it for a test drive?

Don’t just trust the advertising and that slick-talking salesperson. To really know if a car is the right fit for you, and everything you expect, you need to take it out on the road. This is the only way to see whether a vehicle is designed in a way that will make it a pleasure to drive. It’s also your only real opportunity to check for glitches and faulty components, strange sounds coming from the engine, and any other symptoms that may indicate the vehicle is not in the condition you would expect from a new car.

Like any impossible-seeming adulting task, you CAN buy a car responsibly and successfully if you’re committed to doing your homework beforehand. Don’t let that new car smell trick you into fast-tracking a decision you may regret later. Make sure you ask the right questions, and you’ll be set for years of driving pleasure with no nasty surprises in-between.