Get the best car deal in a bumper year for new models


Next year is going to be one of the busiest ever in the Irish motor industry. The new car buyer will have the biggest choice ever, with some 60 or so new models and derivatives on offer.

With SSIAs being cashed in and a generally positive consensus on economic growth, there will be no shortage of dealers with offers to tempt and no shortage of buyers.

Despite the massive amounts of money that will be spent on cars, however, it seems that there is a lack of preparation on the part of many who venture into the lion's dens of motor dealerships. You will still be able to spot the odd Arthur Daly type as you venture onto a forecourt - faded sheepskin coat and a wad of notes with which to deal - but these days you are far more likely to be dealing with a sharp-suited, gel-haired 20-something whose working environment is now a building designed by a cutting-edge architect who has been told to go heavy on the glass facade.

Either environment is the natural habitat for both types of salesman (there are few women in the business) but remember it is their environment and they are in control. I am always surprised to be asked: "What exactly should I be looking for when I go in? I don't want to look foolish."

The straight answer is that you are the only one who knows what you want. Going unprepared to a dealership is asking for a mauling.

A few simple pointers will help alleviate the stress and ensure you get a better deal. Research into new cars is quite simple these days. For example, I went to the website looking for a new BMW valued between €20,000 and €50,000. In jig time I was perusing a comprehensive list of cars on offer from BMW dealers in the Dublin region, which is the area I requested. I could see what was in stock, the prices, and what standard equipment was on offer. Some dealers did not have a comprehensive stock list though.

That makes it all quite straightforward in terms of researching my imaginary new BMW. I can compare prices and then make some calls to arrange a test drive and have any questions answered. But you would be surprised at how many people go to look at a new BMW when they are really interested in a Toyota Rav 4. Don't expect too sympathetic an ear from a salesman when you drop that confession.

So, armed with your facts and requirements, the next step is the deal. If you are a straight cash buyer then expect a discount: but a realistic one. Someone buying a new Toyota is likely to get a better discount than someone buying a BMW low-volume model.

If you are trading in, it is counted as two deals by the salesman. The usual situation is for a dealer to offer a trade-in value from which he is subtracting part of his commission on the new car. It looks good to you but he has mentally calculated the entire transaction as much to his benefit as possible.

As a general rule, expect a discount of about €1,000 on a new car for cash, and less when it comes to a trade-in. If you take that average discount you may be able to see the value of the trade-in more clearly. A usual practice is to offer the whole standard discount on the trade-in value, thus making your banger look a good deal more valuable than it is. A little haggling will soon reveal a middle-ground price but you will find this quickly and, remember, the salesman is doing this everyday - you are not.

The recent Prime Time Investigates programme on the motor industry suggested that secret agreements between companies and dealers on pricing, delivery charges and trade-in values could mean an extra €2,314 being added to the cost of a small car and up to €3,500 to the cost of a medium- sized car. The motor industry says dealers are only making a couple of hundred euro on a car worth €20,000. Judge for yourself but I do believe dealers have been operating on much lower margins in the last year or so because of the cost of modernising the business and the fiercely competitive nature of the business.

Finance is the area in which many people are under-informed. A blitz of detail and figures will have you lost in minutes. Ask someone who knows about these things because you may end up paying a whopping amount of interest on an average purchase.

If your car is in stock you can have it within days but if not you could be waiting up to three months for a car with an extra specification. Again, you need to know whether you really want leather seats before you plan to drive the car away in time for next Monday's golf outing. More basic cars are generally available sooner and may be the better option for a bigger discount.

Unfortunately, women are still not treated as equals when it comes to car salesmen. Recent research in the UK found that they are offered small discounts, if any, and are generally not treated as serious buyers. That, I suspect, is because men are bigger suckers when it comes to buying cars and women are more cautious and sensible. Why should women not know both the value and the price of everything instead of being seduced with talk of torque and rpms?

However, women would be advised to bring a man along, if only as a token "partner" to ask the sillier questions and allow the salesman to use the patter he is more comfortable with.

Dos and don'ts

DO use the internet to arm yourself with information on all aspects of the car you are interested in. and are both excellent sources. Check out brochures and the prices of all extra items of equipment, some of which you might have expected to get as standard.

DO be clear about what you want and also what you don't want.

DO walk away if you are not happy with the way you are being treated. There are lots of other cars and lots of other dealers.

DON'T waste the salesman's time and then you won't find your own being wasted. A direct approach will make them pay attention.

DON'T enter into ANY finance deal without getting good independent advice on the total cost. Some salesmen make more from selling finance than selling cars.