What do I need to know about buying a new car? (Australia-specific)
May 8, 2011 5:11 PM   Subscribe

So, despite my historical protestations to the contrary, I have found that it is no longer to function as a decent and well-rounded human being without being the owner of a car, which I can drive to the bottle shop and eventually crash and die in.

I am buying a new car. I have had uniformly poor experiences with secondhand cars in the past and am not going to consider a secondhand (that is, used, like an incontinence product) car even for a moment. Not one moment!

My girl and I went around some dealerships on the weekend. We hit Suzuki, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, and Holden. We are going to be buying a small, environmentally-friendly vehicle, and as such looked at the Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Something (i20?), Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris (what's with the console being in the middle of the dash? fail!), and were going to look at a Holden Whatever but the salesperson was of a profoundly surly, miserable and unhelpful disposition, so too bad for the Australian car industry, I suppose. I've heard stories about the steering wheels falling off in the Holden/Chevy Cruze anyway, and the Barina Spark only comes with manual transmission which I refuse to be associated with for religious reasons.

Anyway, after further research and some test drives in the near future, I'm pretty sure it's going to be a contest between the Suzuki Swift, Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta, or Golf Polo. (Originally we were going to go with the Nissan Micra but turns out it's a big piece of shit).


I've never bought a new car before. Well, by "bought"...I'm probably going to go with a novated lease through my government job. But pretend I got a loan instead. What do I need to know? What do I need to do? How am I going to get screwed? What's the best approach, finances-wise? What are your experiences, good and bad? Am I going to regret this?

To boil it down into a specific, less-chatty question: what are the top 3 things you wish you had known before buying your first new car, that you didn't know then, and yet know now, through knowledge and learning and bitter, bloody experience?
posted by tumid dahlia to Travel & Transportation around Australia (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can look at truecost.com...it has a bell-curve average of what people are actually paying for cars.

If possible, try to go to TWO different dealers of the same brand when you decide what car you want. Go to the second with a quote from the first, and then go back to the first with a (hopefully better) quote from the second.

I considered a Suzuki X4 myself, but Suzuki cars have a bad reputation for reliability. Cheap and good mileage, though.

I did buy a new VW Jetta TDI, and I wish I had known that VW's are a higher cost of maintenance than average with a below-average reliability rating. I also wish I had noticed a large scratch on the passenger window to ask for a discount.
posted by shortyJBot at 5:21 PM on May 8, 2011

Best answer: The margins for car dealers in Australia is extremely low these days. They try to make their money by upselling you on 3rd party extras like alarm systems (or "enhancements" to the factory-fitted alarm), duco treatments, re-touched interiors. Be wary of these expensive add-ons.
posted by Diag at 5:25 PM on May 8, 2011

Best answer: On margins: yup, they're tight. On top of that is the fact that most of the cars on your list are selling fairly well, so there's no reason for dealers to haggle when they can ditch you and sell to the next guy that walks through the door. There's sometimes deals to be had, but mainly down amongst the Kias & Hyundais.

I've got an acquaintance who's a (cheerful & helpful!) Holden salesman, and even he won't recommend the auto Cruze. Good move avoiding that.

First and foremost, buy a car that you enjoy driving. Trinkets come second to that, and looks come third. You can live without electric arse-warmers, and you'll come to love an ugly car that drives well, but driving a car that's gutless or has no road feel will always be an unpleasant chore - and that goes double if you're doing mainly city driving.

Off your list, I'd lean towards the Mazda2 or Ford Fiesta. I have a soft spot for the older Suzuki Swift, but I'm told the new ones are underpowered (though with much better economy). And, as everyone else will say, stay away from VW unless you enjoy paying top dollar to sit around reading old magazines and drinking bad coffee in the dealer's service lounge.
posted by Pinback at 6:06 PM on May 8, 2011

I'd go with the Mazda. We've had two Proteges and the '99 is still going strong with 185K miles on it. We got 260K out of the '91 before the AC went and was going to cost too much to fix.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:15 PM on May 8, 2011

Mazda all the way, baby.
posted by mleigh at 6:19 PM on May 8, 2011

Best answer: Did you check out the Honda Jazz? Bought a car just last week, ended up getting second-hand, but that one was pretty good.

We use this: http://www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au/GVGPublicUI/home.aspx

and this: www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au

when looking, as well as this for the reviews: http://www.caradvice.com.au/car-reviews/

White and silver cars have better resale, or so I am told.

Comfortable seats are improtant to me.
posted by wilful at 6:21 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I do quite enjoy the look of the Fiesta (and the Mazda2 by association, since they're pretty much identical, I'm told). I've been doing a little more research this morning and though I still really like the Polo, shortyJBot's and Pinback's comments about poor value service have been verified and that's off the list.

So - Mazda2, Fiesta, Swift. At least that's a more reasonable selection (and a little more economical). Will line up a bunch of test drives this week.

It's going to be primarily for city driving but chances are, having the thing sitting there in the driveway, there will be a jaunt every now and then to the Coasts or to Sydney (which isn't that far, really). Those three models seem not exactly ideal for such things, but will at least be able to handle it. I've been forced by work to drive a Yaris over significant distances and while it wasn't the most fun thing on earth, I'm at least aware of what it involves and am confident in smaller cars being able to tackle it.

This is great information so far everybody. Although I probably would have done it at some point anyway, it wasn't foremost in my mind to shop quotes between different dealers of the same make.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:23 PM on May 8, 2011

I have a Mazda 2. They are a great little car. That's part of the reason you see so many on the road. The shift is slightly oddly located. That is a bit odd at first but once you get used to it it is fine. They even fit a bike in the back with the seats down and the front wheel taken off the bike.

I have never bought a new car and doubt I ever will. Even with the lease deal it might be worth checking carsales for late model low distance cars.

As far as any car goes I'd suggest not getting a 2 door.
posted by sien at 6:33 PM on May 8, 2011

Best answer: I just got out off new car market having gotten a Mazda 3 Sport. I looked about both the Ford Fiesta and the Mazda 2, I went with the Mazda 3 since it gets similar gas mileage and will work for me better in the long run. It drives much better than I could have ever hoped and makes my daily commute fun. I tend to like to keep my cars for a long time so I am fairly picky when buying one. That said, here are my top 3 things to worry about for a new car:

1) Do you like how it drives? Can you stand driving it and will it meet your needs for the next 20 years (with proper maintenance)? Do you like how you can operate the car and the dashboard options?

2) When the dealer comes and gives you the initial price that they marked down, just look at it for a second. Pretend to think about finances or something similarly important, I like to ponder the weather, and tell them "Really, that's it. I think you can do better". With this in mind, remember, it is always good to be able to walk away from the negotiating table. You can always find another dealer to cut a good price. I have found this article from Popular Mechanics very helpful: http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/industry/confessions-of-a-car-salesman-5681350?click=pp

3) Are you sure a small car like that will meet your weekly/monthly needs? One of the reasons I went with the Mazda 3 is that I can fit all of my tools and golf clubs in the boot much easier. Seeing as I'm using them several times a week, it makes my life a whole lot easier. This is one case where practicality outdid my desire for fuel efficiency.
posted by Nackt at 6:41 PM on May 8, 2011

Best answer: Since you're comparing the Mazda2 and Fiesta, I'll just toss up some of the things to watch out for when you test drive them.

The Fiesta has a radically different automatic transmission, my friends have described it as being a bit "demented", it's a DPS6 dry clutch I believe with a mind of its own when shifting gears which you just have to get used to. Using standard automatic transmissions both the Mazda2 and Fiesta return fuel economy around 6.8 and 6.9 litres per 100km, however as of Janury this year Fiesta production has shifted to Thailand and it now contains the upgraded DPS6 automatic by default which returns 5.9 litres per 100km which is a significant (20%) improvement.

Make sure your bluetooth works at the dealer if possible: the single biggest contributor to TGW (things gone wrong) nowadays is bluetooth. It helps if you have a standard phone, but there are often bugs in the software and hardware... a common one is the bluetooth going haywire when you plug a USB stick into the mp3 player, for example.

The Fiesta is also tuned to be a "sportier" drive, having a noticably more powerful engine and more efficient transmission (no parasitic losses, faster shifts).
posted by xdvesper at 6:57 PM on May 8, 2011

Best answer: In the same position as you and just bought my first car about three weeks ago. Being novices with no idea whatsoever we narrowed it down to the Mazda 2 and Suzuki Swift based on the NRMA ratings guide thingy & a mechanic friend's advice. We ended up going with the Suzuki Swift 2011 GL Auto based on looks alone (I found the drive very similar with both). We paid $19,200 driveaway. Having used a borrowed 1995 Toyota Prado, I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying both parking & not being the first one called when anyone is moving house/bought furniture on ebay. It's not a huge car but there is plenty of room for the two of us, the dog & our weekly shop (you can fit five full green bags comfortably along on the back shelf).

It's zippy & a lot of fun to drive - I've made a 360 turnaround from stalwart public transport defender to not drinking at parties just so I can drive in the last three weeks.
posted by Wantok at 7:05 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, from the US and can't help with any of the new-car-finance-y things, but thought I'd pop in to say that my ex and his best friend love their Mazda Proteges (they have the 5, which is the hatchback, but I'm told they're similar engine-wise to the 2 and 3?) and those cars have survived so many racing mishaps and home modding.

And I have a Toyota Yaris (a 2008 though?) and I love it and would buy again. My Marshmallow gets close to 40mpg (sry don't math Aussie) on the highway and is tiny and comfy and drives well, and carries a surprising amount of stuff compared to my old Tercel.
Anyway, just got my first 'new' i.e. not ancient car last summer and I feel compelled to share, so good luck!

yes my car is named Marshmallow.
posted by dust.wind.dude at 7:14 PM on May 8, 2011

I haven't bought new, but my number one consideration in choosing a car brand is something you haven't mentioned - availability of replacement parts. Check to see whether the models you are considering are compatible with older ones for parts, because even if you are buying new and covered by warranty, it's no fun waiting for weeks or months for less common parts to be ordered (or on back-order, ugh) from overseas.
posted by lollusc at 7:19 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I truly love in almost every way my 2008 Mazda3 that I bought new but I'd hate to buy the 2011 model with the 2012 coming right around the corner (in September-ish?). It has a new engine option that's supposed to get a truly enviable ~30/40mpg (city/highway). Fuel efficiency is the one area where the current Mazda3s come up short compared to the latest generation of Accents/Elantras/Fiestas/Focuses/Cruzes/etc. In the driving department they are a pleasure. 2012 Subaru Imprezas also seem like they'll be pretty nice, plus AWD. They may be outside your buying budget though...
posted by Pryde at 7:24 PM on May 8, 2011

Best answer: I can answer this question for you pretty quickly (wife and I have bought about 10 new cars in the last 20 years or so):
1) Have your finance organised *before* you show up on the lot. One of the greatest ripoffs of the century is "dealer financing", that is where they make their money. Get an idea about how much your car costs (you can just look in any Saturday paper under the "Drive" section) and then arrange for your loan to be that amount plus (say) 5%. Get bank approval and then once you have, start shopping. This also helps you to keep to a budget, if you know exactly how much you have to spend.
2) Once you've signed on the dotted line, you will be ushered into a small office where a charming young lady (usually it's a lady, sometimes it will be a very handsome young gentleman - you get the drift) will try and persuade you to purchase the following items: paint protection, underbody protection, rustproofing, "extended warranty", free service for the next 10 years, window tinting, blah blah blah. DO NOT purchase any of these items. The paint protection (et al) are total BS and a waste of money. The rest of the accessories you can either get fitted way more cheaply by a specialist (eg the tinted windows) or you don't need anyway (eg mudflaps).
In fact, a good idea would be if you are keen on a particular accessory (eg reverse sensors) make it part of your initial bargaining tactics with the sales guy - "So how much again for the car and the vanity plates/reverse sensor/satnav?".
3) Someone mentioned upthread that new cars have little margin on them in Australia. This is so true. However, you can still get a good deal if you head into the dealership on the last day of the month. If you know the car you want to buy and are ready to buy it that day, you can drive a harder bargain since the sales dude will be looking for a quick close to add to his monthly "tally".

As to what car? A Subaru is the best car you can buy for under $50K, but I am biased, so take that with a grain of salt!
posted by humpy at 7:29 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also FWIW the Hyundai i20 is a fine car - my wife actually bought one last year. Yes I know, Hyundai, but they have improved out of sight. We've only had one problem with it - the airbag light keeps coming on for no reason - well it came on twice and they fixed it twice.

I think she paid $24K before trade in, and for that she got mats, tinting, and the NSW "slim" black and white plates.
posted by humpy at 7:37 PM on May 8, 2011

If memory serves, and if you can wait a little bit, end-of-financial-year sales tend to offer some pretty decent bargains.

I see you've mentioned Hyundai, but it seems to have dropped off your list fairly quickly. We had an '05 Getz (which is now the.. i10? I think?) for five years (upgrading to a VW Jetta when baby-space-requirements started to bite), and it was fine. Hardly exciting to drive, basically a shopping cart that ran on the smell of an oily rag. Super-cheap to service, nothing broke, and a 5 year warranty is really hard to argue with. A lot of people are similarly wrapped with KIAs, for much the same reasons.

The thing I wish I'd learned earlier about buying new big things (like cars, and houses) is to look a little further into the future, and plan for that -- it'd suck to buy a nice little car now, and then take a massive hit because you've got to sell it to buy a bigger one if mini-tumids start popping out...
posted by coriolisdave at 7:42 PM on May 8, 2011

Response by poster: And god helps us all if that does happen, coriolisdave. God help every one of us.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:12 PM on May 8, 2011

Best answer: I recommend reading The Dog and Lemon Guide, as much for entertainment as for the useful knowledge. You can buy it in newsagents.

Also, if you are going for a lease and salary packaging it, be aware that the government is proposing changes in the budget around this (basically, better for people who don't drive much on their packaged car and worse for those who drive a lot.. tax wise).
posted by AnnaRat at 8:22 PM on May 8, 2011

Best answer: Read Every. Single. Word. of the contract they bring you to sign. They love, love, love to sneak things in there. Extra charges for bizarre "insurance", or for "mandatory" etching of the VIN number onto various parts of the car as theft protection, etc. When you catch them on something, they act all innocent and say "Oh, you didn't want that? Everyone gets that."

Don't mention how you're going to be financing the car until after you've agreed on a price. As humpy says, they make most of their money on the financing. Just let them negotiate the price under the assumption that you'll be financing the car through them. (Then watch them sweat when they realize you're not going to be paying them interest for the next five years.)

Be prepared to spend a long time at the dealership to get what you want. The last new car we bought, we were there for 9 hours. Some of them will deliberately leave you sitting in an airless room for ages, while they go "try to get this approved by the sales manager", hoping to wear you down so that you'll agree to anything just to get it over with. Don't fall for it.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:47 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

The telephone remains a powerful and underused part of *new* car buying, if you live in a large city with multiple dealers.

Work out what you want, and get the price for that at your first choice dealer (typically the most convenient one). Take not of all the advice above, particularly where dealers try to make some extra money.

Go home and ring some other dealers and get a salesperson. Be honest - you've been given price abc for xyz at another dealer, and you're wanting to know if they can offer you a better price.

Unlike used cars - new cars are the same and are generally sold to dealers for the same price. Its up to a salesperson as to whether they can go lower - and often they will because a sale that they wouldn't otherwise get because you don't go to their lot, is better than no sale.

Possibly instead of a better price, they will throw in extras - so think about what you would like too.

Also, be prepared to tell them what you want. Sometimes salespeople just want to hear that. "Another dealer has offered me abc for $xyz. I will come and buy from you if you can offer hij."
posted by jjderooy at 2:23 AM on May 9, 2011

I've owned a Mazda2 and used it for all the purposes you've described.
I can't fault the mazda2 and the service I received from the dealer.
posted by MT at 2:37 AM on May 9, 2011

I know you said no used cars, but I have to ask: Do the manufacturers not have "certified used" programs in Australia? All the warranty benefits of a new car without the depreciation.
posted by wierdo at 9:14 AM on May 9, 2011

Another thing to consider - with a new Suzuki, you get a free one years membership to the Premium Super Special Suzuki Members Club (or something, I wasn't really paying attention) which means that they will come to your house and, for a maximum of $145, repair any body or interior damage it sustains. So if, for example, some mothertrucker flytips a massive pile of cement rubble in the laneway outside your garage door and you scratch your beautiful new car on it - don't cry. It'll be like it never happened.
posted by Wantok at 5:47 PM on May 10, 2011

So what did you decide? Also, looks like Honda have just slashed prices on a bunch of their vehicles, including the Jazz...
posted by coriolisdave at 10:20 PM on June 3, 2011

Response by poster: Oops. Nobody is reading this but I came back to it in reference to somebody else's Ask. For the sake of completeness, we got the Ford Fiesta WT Zetec in automatic, in metropolitan grey. Woo.
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:03 PM on November 8, 2011

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