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What buyers want in a new car


Unless you’re a self-confessed, dyed-in-the-wool petrol-head, buying a new car can be quite an exasperating experience. With the huge selection available; conflicting advice from friends, colleagues and family members; pressure from sales people and, of course, one’s own needs and wants; it’s enough to make your head spin. A car is probably the second biggest purchase a person will make in their lifetime, so serious thought needs to be applied before signing on the dotted line.

Research on buying considerations tend to be inconclusive on what needs South Africans prioritise when making a final choice. Depending on which article one reads, most choices are based on: value for money, perceived quality, style, performance, brand cache, space/comfort, safety features, security, resale value and after sales support. To be entirely objective, it would be advisable to score each item out of five and the vehicle with the highest scores should make up your shortlist.

So, in no order of importance, let us discuss each item in some detail.

South Africans are car crazy and even though a car is a necessity, for many drivers owning a car is also a status symbol. This makes buyers very brand conscious, with the right badge on a car making all the right statements. Often, brand loyalty comes at a price, so you can afford it, go ahead and enjoy.

Brand loyalty coupled to perceived quality is characterised by families who own single brand vehicles and it runs down and through the family. Think Toyota, which has an enviable reputation for reliability and durability. This “hereditary” loyalty is extremely robust and difficult to shake resulting in repeat buyers. The advantage of making such a decision is that everyone in the family is a brand ambassador, who is fully familiar with the car and can speak with authority on its positive qualities.

Given our poor economy, many buyers are delaying making new purchases or buying down, which means value for money is now more critical than ever. Bigger discounts, more features, greater service and maintenance plans, roadside assistance, and innovative financial schemes are what buyers are looking for. Besides the actual purchase price, buyers also need to be aware of the operational costs of a vehicle in respect of insurance, wear and tear, depreciation and finally, resale values. Critical to the running costs of a vehicle is its fuel economy, hence the buying down trend, where buyers are buying smaller engine vehicles without sacrificing any luxury features.

Closely linked to the value for money aspect is the after-care service and support. The worst horror stories come from buyers who, after taking delivery of their car, experience difficulties and battle to have them resolved. Are there enough dealers across the country? What is the availability of parts and the price of a “basket of service parts”? What is the normal waiting period for accident-damaged replacement parts? Go online to read owners’ experiences with various brands and then consider the after-care service and support you will get with the purchase you are contemplating.

With our country’s high accident record, safety should appear on the top of the list. Do your research and find out what star rating was awarded to the car of your choice. If you have little kids, does it have Isofix seat anchors and what other additional active and passive drive-assist features does the car have? It’s not only important to know how well a car can avoid a crash, but especially for its occupants, how well it will survive a crash.

Car theft and theft from cars are on the increase. Many people make vehicle buying choices based on the popularity of a certain brand. It goes without saying that top selling models are also on the most wanted list of the criminals, who will resort to hijacking to separate you from your car. Think very carefully about security features when making a purchase.

When it comes to buying a car to drive your family around in, comfort and storage space are some of the most important factors to consider. You need a car with enough room for the whole family as well as everyone’s gear. You also want to make sure that your daily rides - and any longer trips you take - are as comfortable as possible.

Finally, let us not forget performance. No matter how tough the times, South Africans are spoilt for choice and have enjoyed driving cars that boast great performance, whether it be a 1.0 litre, three-cylinder Ford Ecosport or the top-dog Ford Ranger Raptor.

All said and done, there are really no bad new cars any more. The bad chancers and fly-by-night operators have all but disappeared. Even the dodgy Chinese brands have left and the likes of Haval and GWM have now upped their game to compete with the truly established marques. Now pay special attention to after sales service and cost of servicing and repairs.

So, do your homework, consult, research an compare before making and intelligent choice that covers your practical needs and emotional wants.

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