Toronto Star

Do your homework to buy confidentl­y

Such a major decision requires plenty of research and asking right questions

- MARK RICHARDSON SPECIAL TO THE STAR Freelance writer Mark Richardson is a former editor of Toronto Star Wheels. Reach him by emailing and putting his name in the subject line.

A new car is a big decision, but it’s much easier to make the right choice if you prepare beforehand. Answer these questions and follow these steps and you won’t go wrong. Afew months before buying

Decide what kind of vehicle you want. A comfortabl­e sedan or a sporty coupe? A practical SUV or crossover or minivan? You’ll need a more powerful engine if you want to tow a trailer or boat. When you’ve decided, don’t look at anything else, so you can keep your search focused correctly.

How big should it be? Do you carry many passengers, or much luggage, or dogs? Vehicles have as many as eight seats or as few as two — a twodoor coupe might look good, but it won’t be easy for a child seat in the back, or a pet.

What will you do with your vehicle? Be realistic here. You’ll appreciate a smaller car if you drive mostly in the congested city. Fuel consumptio­n won’t be as important to you financiall­y if you drive less than 5,000 km a year, but higher city mileage might warrant a hybrid car that consumes less fuel in stop-and-go traffic. Long highway drives are best in a fuel-efficient car, and especially a diesel. Rural driving could be safer in an all-wheel drive car, which is less likely to get stuck in snow.

How much can you afford? Decide on a price and stick to it. A salesperso­n will probably try to sell you a car that costs the most you can afford, but don’t go over your budget, however wonderful the deal. You’ll regret it later.

Do some research. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to a style and price, go online and see what you get for your money. Read profession­al reviews and owners’ comments, and check crash-test ratings. Know as much as you can beforehand, and compare models and trim levels before talking to a salesperso­n. Afew weeks before buying

Check the resale. Even new cars have estimated resale prices for a few years into the future. Two cars that cost the same now could devalue at very different rates, and the overall cost of ownership will be greater for one than the other. Go to CanadianBl­ to check estimated future prices.

Fuel economy. Official figures are more realistic now that the government has changed its methodolog­y. And although your heavy foot may not help you see the same fuel consumptio­n, the claimed figures help you compare different models to each other. Also, check if the car you like needs regular or premium fuel. Are you prepared to pay the extra at the pump?

Reliabilit­y. It’s difficult to know if a new car will have repair issues, but do a Google search of whichever models you’re interested in to read what current owners say about it. While you’re at it, see if those owners recommend rustproofi­ng, and then heed their advice.

Cash, lease or finance? Different manufactur­ers offer different financing and leasing interest rates for their cars — even different rates for different trim levels of the same vehicle, depending on its popularity. Make sure to find out exactly what to expect with the stress-free comfort of your own computer.

Test drive! Go to the dealership­s of the cars you like to give them a test drive. Call beforehand to make sure the right car is ready, but make it clear to the salesperso­n that you’re not buying today, just getting a feel for the vehicle. Afew days before buying

Take a closer look. Go back to the dealership­s you liked and sit in the cars again. After a week or two, do you still like it? Is it comfortabl­e in all seats, front and back? Do you have enough headroom and legroom?

What do you really need? Leather is more expensive and needs to be heated in the winter — do you want to pay for it? A Navigation system is useful, but you can probably find a cheaper alternativ­e with a plug-in portable system. How much is it worth to you?

No, what do you really, really need? The options are usually much higher profit items for dealership­s and makers, and they’ll try to sell you on them costing only a few cents extra for each day of ownership. But the costs can really add up. Remember your original budget and don’t go over it.

Insurance. This can be a deal breaker. Call your broker or go online to a comparison site like insuranceh­ and find out how much the models you like will cost to insure. One model might be twice the expense of another, and you don’t want to find this out afterwards. On the day

Double-check your budget. Make sure the final price, after all taxes, is affordable, otherwise you’ll grow to hate the car.

Does anything bother you? Anything at all? If so, address it now before you buy. You like the colour, don’t you? If everything feels good and you can afford the price, then congratula­tions — you’ve found your new car.

 ?? TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO ?? A new car is a major purchase and is something you should think about over a period of time. Make up a checklist, Mark Richardson suggests.
TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO A new car is a major purchase and is something you should think about over a period of time. Make up a checklist, Mark Richardson suggests.

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