Man looking inside a car

Buying Smart: How To Get A Great New-Car Deal

Buying a new car is one of life’s most complex purchases, spanning several different transactions within the one deal.

By Shell on Dec. 06, 2020

That complexity doesn’t play to the advantage of the uninformed buyer, with each stage of the process a golden opportunity for dealers to increase their profit margin.

Without some basic research and preparation before you go in, your chances of negotiating the best financial outcome are slim. So, how do you make sure you’re not paying too much for your next car? Here are some rules to follow.

Time it correctly

Like any product, vehicles are subject to supply-and-demand issues. It pays to have a basic understanding of your chosen model’s place in the market.

A vehicle that’s just been released and still in high demand isn’t going to need discounting to keep moving out the doors. Contrastingly, if the model you’re interested in is about to be superseded, a salesperson is likely to have a big incentive to move them on to free up floor space.

Car dealers, too, are under pressure to meet yearly and monthly sales targets, just like any salesperson. Do your shopping near the end of a financial year or month and you might find them more willing to do a great deal to get over the line.

Wider societal factors can also alter your negotiating position. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has dramatically slowed new-car sales across the world, can give the upper hand for those wanting to buy.

Research your finance first

You may need to borrow some money to finance your new vehicle. This separate transaction needs to be considered as carefully as choosing the right model – sign up to an uncompetitive finance deal with the dealer and you might end up spending more than you ever saved during negotiations.

So, don’t wait until the last minute – when you’re under pressure to sign on the dotted line – before thinking about how you’re going to pay. Research and price your finance options before you start shopping.

Maximise your trade-in value

Just like finance, a trade-in is its own transaction and should be treated as such. Don’t just blindly accept the dealer’s first offer.

Remember, too, that a trade-in price is typically less than if you sold it privately. You might be willing to pay for this convenience but if you haven’t researched private-sale values of your current car first, you’ll never know just how much you’re paying for it.

Do the sums before hitting the dealerships. When a trade-in number comes, you’ll be better informed to make the call on whether trading or selling is best for you.

Don’t fall for the upsell

Salespeople will try to tempt you with various accessories during negotiations. Even if you think you might need a towing kit, paint/fabric/rust protection or anything they’re pitching, research similar products from aftermarket suppliers before committing. They might not just cost less, they might be better, too.

Don’t be afraid to haggle

Haggling is an established part of the car-buying process, so play the game. Throw a lowball figure during negotiations – 10 to 15 per cent below the published on-road figure is ambitious without being delusional – and see where it takes you.

The salesperson might say no, they might chuckle, but they won’t ask you to leave the showroom. And their counter-offer could be better than what you might have achieved if you hadn’t taken the punt. If you’re not happy with the offer, walk away.

More importantly, you should use the law of averages to your advantage by negotiating with a few dealers. That’ll help you identify a merely good deal from a great one.


Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd (“Viva Energy”) has compiled the above article for your general information and to use as a general reference. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken by Viva Energy in compiling this article, Viva Energy does not warrant or represent that the information in the article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use.

Where information, recommendations, opinions or ideas have been sourced from third parties external to Viva Energy (Third Party Information), Viva Energy cannot be certain that the Third Party Information is accurate, current or complete, nor should a mention of any business, product, service or website of a third party be taken as a recommendation, approval or endorsement of, or warranty or claim regarding, that business, product, service or website.