If you’re planning to buy a new car when the March registrations appear in showrooms next week, you are unlikely to be alone.
Recent figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders found that new vehicle registrations hit a 10-year high in 2014. With the economic recovery continuing and petrol cheaper than it has been in years, more of the same is expected in 2015.
If you’re thinking about buying a brand-new or used car in the near future your biggest concerns are likely to be whether the make and model are right for you and of course how much you have to pay.
But the sale price is only part of the equation: it’s also vital to make sure that you don’t end up paying over the odds when it comes to running costs such as insurance, fuel consumption and maintenance.
A slump in the price of oil has sent petrol and diesel prices tumbling since last summer. Today, drivers are typically paying between a fifth and a quarter less to fill up than they were doing in mid-2014.
But fuel is still far from cheap, and it is impossible to say whether low crude oil values will continue indefinitely, so fuel consumption is certainly something you should be concerned about.
Most manufacturers publish official fuel consumption figures in miles per gallon (mpg) but these usually overstate cars’ real-world fuel economy. There are a number of websites that let you check and compare typical mpg rates – motoring site Honest John, for example, compiles economy ratings based on submissions from its users.
You may be better off with a diesel car if you use your vehicle a lot: diesels normally offer greater fuel economy but bear in mind that purchase prices are typically higher and diesel costs more than petrol at the pumps.
Vehicle excise duty – known by many as road tax – is now based entirely on a vehicle’s CO2 emissions. You can check how much your car will have to pay on this government website provided you know the make, model and year it was registered in. Annual VED rates range from £0 for vehicles which emit less than 100g of CO2 for every kilometre travelled to £500 for the most polluting cars.
Insurance The average annual motor premium puts the cost of tax in the shade – according to the latest figures from price-comparison site Confused.com, the typical comprehensive policy costs almost £600 a year. This is some way below the peak of £858 in early 2011, but premiums have been rising gradually since last spring.
A comparison site will let you call up quotes for the car you’re thinking of buying so you will get a good idea of how much it will cost to insure. Prices can vary significantly based on factors such as where you live, your age and your claims history.
The cost of servicing and repairs can put a big dent in your finances, but such expenses can be difficult to predict. If you’re buying a brand-new car you’ll probably get a warranty to cover the cost of any servicing issues for the first three years. If your car is more than three years old, you’re likely to have to meet these costs yourself as well as pay for an annual MOT (currently a maximum of £54.85). For older vehicles, check online to see whether they have a history of needing much maintenance or any reliability issues.
One of the biggest costs of using a car is depreciation – the value it loses just by dint of you driving it around. Different models depreciate at different rates and although it’s impossible to predict exactly how much value a particular car will lose over the next few years, some websites can help you make an educated guess. WhatCar? magazine, for example, has a depreciation calculator that can compare the expected losses on up to four vehicles.
If you’re looking for a low-cost way to finance a new vehicle make sure to visit Zopa’s car finance page to see how a loan could help you with the purchase.