New year’s birth­day

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Showroom - PAUL GOVER CHIEF REPORTER

ALL horses share the same birth­day. So do cars.

One-horse­power mod­els turn a year older on Au­gust 1. In the au­to­mo­tive world, the can­dles-on-cake date is Jan­uary 1.

So on Wed­nes­day ev­ery new car in Aus­tralian show­rooms got a year older. And a year cheaper.

Any­thing that’s sit­ting in a show­room now is ba­si­cally out­dated. Buy­ers will soon be look­ing for some­thing freshly minted with a 2014 build date and not one of those old­fash­ioned 2013 mod­els.

That’s why Jan­uary is as good for bar­gains — or of­ten bet­ter — than the dy­ing days of the pre­vi­ous year when car­mak­ers and deal­ers are rac­ing to hit the an­nual tar­gets that raise the fig­ures on their bonus cheques. The clear-out sales have be­gun and, more than ever, it’s about tak­ing what you can get.

There is no point hag­gling over a colour or ask­ing for ex­tra equip­ment if it means the dealer will have to get some­thing that’s not ready to roll.

You must be pre­pared to buy now and take some­thing on the lot, per­haps even a pre­reg­is­tered car with some kilo­me­tres on the clock and fewer ze­ros on the bot­tom line.

The big deal­ers from the big brands are best for bar­gain hunters, as they have the big­gest stocks. Toy­ota is an ex­cep­tion, be­cause it be­lieves a T badge on the grille is worth more, but brands such as Hyundai and Kia and Nis­san and Mit­subishi are all push­ing hard and clear the decks for a fresh ef­fort in 2014.

The best way to check what you’re get­ting is to head for a car’s VIN plate.

It’s riv­eted to the fire­wall and is stamped with the car’s Ve­hi­cle Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Num­ber, birth date and other de­tails in­clud­ing its chas­sis num­ber.

The VIN is the key to a car’s life, even though Carsguide read­ers fre­quently con­tact us to ask if the clock starts run­ning from the date of reg­is­tra­tion. The rego date is the start point for the cru­cial war­ranty cov­er­age, some­thing to re­mem­ber if you’re buy­ing a pre-reg­is­tered new car, but the VIN rules on ev­ery­thing else in­clud­ing — cru­cially — re­sale val­ues.

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