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Purchasing a new vehicle is a consequential decision, and sometimes it can seem like the only thing bigger than the price tag is the laundry list of things you need to know.

With everyone from experts to your best mate having an opinion on what’s best, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in a sea of information. Consider this your lifeline, the ultimate yet simple checklist of what you need to consider before buying a car:

Check Your Credit

A higher credit score increases your chance of securing a loan with a low interest rate. You may check your credit score using New Zealand’s credit reporting bureaus.

If your credit score is lower than you’d like it to be, you may use one of these reports to see why; also note a large number of inquiries into your credit will cause it to dip.

Know Your Budget

First, establish your income versus expenses and the trade-in value of your vehicle if you have one. This will determine what you can afford to make in a down payment. Next, consider how much you will be comfortable making in monthly payments.

The interest rate for the loan you secure will impact this, but it is also a good idea to consider insurance. While insurance is not required in New Zealand, it can help cover the costs when accidents occur.

Compare Loan Options

Not all loans are created equal, so it’s a good idea to do some comparison shopping. As mentioned earlier, your credit score will heavily influence what loan options are available to you.

You can apply for loans directly at the car dealership or get pre-approved through a bank or credit union before visiting the dealership, which helps streamline the process.

Consider Your Needs

It’s your vehicle, so what will you be using it for? Does it need to have towing capabilities and a powerful engine? Are you in for some rough roads and need four-wheel drive capabilities?

Perhaps you’ll be sticking to well-paved city streets, so you’d rather have a compact hybrid. How much space do you need for pets or kids? These are all factors that will impact the daily use of your vehicle.

Research Safety Features

Every 15 minutes in Australia or New Zealand, someone is gravely injured or killed in a car accident. That’s 96 people a day.

The Australian New Car Assessment Programme is an independent safety testing agency that provides safety reports for all vehicles searchable by year, make and model. When searching for new cars in NZ, make sure you go with a reputable brand backed by ANCAP safety tests.

Anticipate Maintenance Costs

While there is no way to know with 100% certainty what will happen over the lifespan of your vehicle, with a little research, you can plan for potential problems. Like the ANCAP reports on vehicle safety ratings, the New Zealand Transport Agency keeps a database of past vehicles and their known mechanical issues.

Searchable by year, make, and model, you can use this information to help you prepare for the future.

Understand Fuel Economy

If you do a lot of driving, you likely spend a lot on petrol. Understanding fuel economy can help you get the most bang for your buck. The number dealerships show you displayed as L/100kms is a combined fuel economy based on several tests.

However, these tests don’t consider factors such as traffic. If you live in an urban area with lots of congestion, consider a hybrid or an eco-friendly package with an automatic engine shut off when the vehicle is stopped for long periods.

Car shopping can leave you feeling lost, but these tips will put you right back in the driver’s seat. If you check off all these boxes, your new car will certainly check off all of yours.

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