Despite everything, you might just go for a car because you love the way it looks. That's fair enough. But whatever you choose, make sure you test drive it first and don't be afraid to haggle with the dealer.
Don't just drive the car for 5 minutes up to the roundabout and back! See if you can borrow it for an evening or the weekend. If it's going to be your main family car then load everything into it too. Is everyone comfortable? Enough leg room? How is driver visibility. Do the kids' car seats fit?
Most of us aren't great at haggling. But there's no secret formula. The key is to just be prepared – knowing exactly how much you can realistically spend, what your trade-in is worth – and, if possible, knowing the invoice value of the car you want. This is the amount the dealer has paid the manufacturer for the car, and is a good target to aim for – albeit with some margin for the dealer of course.
Pick your moment
New vehicle plates come out twice a year – March and September. So it stands to reason this is when dealers start shedding older stock for the new models. If you don't mind your new car being a tad out of date you could grab yourself a bargain. Buying towards the end of any given month could help too, as dealers will be under pressure to hit their targets.
Even if a dealer won't come down any more on the price, you might find they're more receptive to chucking in a few extras – like car mats, a year's road tax, an improved sound system, alloy wheels or even just a tank of fuel. It could mean you'll have a higher re-sale value on the car when you come to sell it too.
All new cars come with a warranty – but be sure to check how long it's for, and whether the dealer will extend it for free. Read the small print too. Some dealers insist the car is serviced at a main dealer during the warranty period, which can be an expensive way of doing things.