Why now is a good time to buy a car

Buying a new car may be the last thing on your mind, but as Warren Buffett famously said, be fearful when everyone else is being greedy, and greedy when others are being fearful.

We’ve all seen the effects of the coronavirus pandemic: stock markets shooting down and just as quickly shooting up again, plummeting consumer confidence and millions suddenly out of work. And new car sales are falling like a stone (down 18 per cent in March and sure to fall further in coming months).

It may seem opportunistic but when dealers are under so much pressure, you have the upper hand when it comes to buying a new car. Hey, it’s even something you can do from home!

Car companies and dealers, like the rest of us, have mortgages to pay, finance deals to service and overheads that don’t go away just because there’s an international crisis.

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Start looking for deals such as incentive offers, deferred financing, extended warranties and capped or even free servicing. And in any case, interest rates have never been lower. In the US, dealers and car companies are offering loan payment deferral programs putting off the need to make the first payment for as long as 180 days (but because interest continues to accrue on the loan, people who take up the offer will pay more in the long run). Hyundai and its luxury division Genesis have gone even further by re-introducing their job-loss program, which will make as many as six payments for buyers who lose their jobs. Similar incentives are sure to follow in Australia.

Of course, if you are likely to be laid off work, you need to carefully consider the pros and cons of locking yourself into a car loan or lease. Cautious buyers may want to hold off for a few months until things settle down a little. Even then, dealers will still be desperate to do deals and makes sales.

There’s another issue to keep in mind if you’re in the market for a new car: supply chain disruptions and plant closures across the world will inevitably lead to a shortage of some new cars (although plunging demand will offset some of this). Factories across Asia have already reduced production, as have factories in the US and Europe, with many factories shutting down altogether. Even when they resume full production, essential parts need to be sourced from around the world and even one missing critical part will bring production to a halt.

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How to safely shop for a new car
Do your research and as much of the actual purchase as possible online.

These days, actually going to a dealership isn’t really necessary. You can shop around for the best price online, fill out loan applications online and, in some cases, even sign the documents and transfer funds electronically.

If you know what make and model you want, and the options you want, you can contact dealerships, see what they have in stock and negotiate the best price. Even if you have to attend the dealership to handle the paperwork, doing all the groundwork by phone and email means you will spend the least possible time in the showroom.

Inquire about home delivery options
Home delivery isn’t just limited to groceries and pizzas. Not all dealers will have the facility to deliver your new car direct to your home but it’s worth asking.

Ask about health precautions at the dealership
You need to minimise your exposure to infection, and that includes at the dealership.

Most dealers are conducting sensible sanitisation and cleaning procedures, especially by disinfecting any touch points. Keep this in mind before your book a test drive and treat a demonstrator like any other public space.

Wipe down the car yourself, including steering wheel, door handles, turn signals and audio system controls, or watch the dealer do it. Don’t forget keys and key fobs, too, since they are often overlooked.

Of course, follow all the usual precautions such as washing your hands and not touching your face. Follow social distancing guidelines. Don’t shake hands with the sales people. Take your own pen for signing documents, and insist that the desk where you sign paperwork is disinfected.

The same guidelines apply if you are taking your car into a dealership to be serviced. Always make a booking (many are operating at reduced hours or with fewer staff) and wipe down steering wheel, door handles and other touch points before leaving the dealership.

Paul Murrell is a motoring writer and creator of seniordriveraus.com, which specialises in “car advice for people whose age and IQ are both over 50”. This article first appeared on seniordriveraus.com

Have you considered the lucrative deals that are on offer as a result of the pandemic?

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Written by Paul Murrell

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