Buy a new car – for the price of a year-old model

Online car brokers can save you up to a third of the price of many new models – and you still get a full warranty and local servicing.

If you can't put off buying a new car any longer – or you simply hanker after a new model – don't set foot in your local dealer's showroom until you have checked the online car brokers, which can often save you almost a third off the list price.

While sales of new cars across Europe plummeted after the credit crisis hit, forecourts in the UK have remained busy, thanks in part to manufacturers targeting UK buyers with highly competitive deals.

This week What Car? magazine published its list of target prices (what it thinks is the maximum buyers should pay for popular models) and in most cases it reckons buyers should aim to save at least £2,000 on a £16,000 car. However, Guardian Money has unearthed some even better deals, which is some cases can knock almost £5,000 off a similarly priced model – it's just a case of knowing where to look.

Buying online

The secret is to use one of the long-established car brokers that put buyers in touch with dealers who have cars they want to shift in significant volumes in a bid to grab sales bonuses. Drivethedeal.com, which has been in business for 18 years, is one of the biggest names in this area. Carfile.co.uk is another long-established broker, and there are many others also vying to offer the best deals.

Drivethedeal's sales manager, Andy Blackmoor, says the savings can be so good that he can often supply a brand new model for less than local dealers will charge for a one-year model with 5,000 miles on the clock.

Buyers using the site input the car they want, and stipulate any extras such as metallic paint, and the firm then matches the buyer to a dealer looking to do a deal. The supplying dealer could be at the other end of the country – but you get the exact same, brand new car you would have got from your local dealer. You pay a £500 deposit direct to the selling agent, and the balance on the day of collection or delivery.

Blackmoor says: "Some buyers like to pick up their car – to be the first one to drive it – others will let the car be delivered to their door. Buyers are the first named owner, and they enjoy the full warranty they would have had if they'd bought it from a local agent, which will also do all the servicing and the like."

Current best deals

There are currently good deals on BMWs and VW Golfs, says Blackmoor, as well as more mainstream fare. For example, his firm currently will supply a popular Hyundai i30 Active hatchback for £11,616, compared to the list price of £16,310.

There are £3,000 savings to be had on the Ford Fiesta three-door Zetec – down from a list price of almost £14,000 – depending on options. A BMW 335 diesel estate can be yours for £34,305 compared to the list price of almost £45,000. A VW Golf hatchback 1.4 TSi SE five-door can be had for £16,870 rather than £20,870 – a saving of almost 20%.

Rival Carfile, which is another long-standing broker that buyers can trust, is offering the 99g Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Edge five-door hatch for £13,740, compared to the list price of a little under £17,000. Nissan Notes can be had with £1,200 – or 10% – off the official price, to mention but two.

The broker deals are not available on every marque – they depend on which dealers or manufacturers are wanting to shift units. Models that are about to be replaced can offer exceptional bargains, as remaining stock is cleared to make way for a replacement model. And don't automatically assume that your local dealer won't match it – some will come close and may offer a free service package or similar to sweeten the deal.

Avoid the pitfalls

There are a few caveats to using these brokers. Once you've have decided on the make and model you want, try the firms above – and also Honestjohn.co.uk as its lists the brokers/dealers doing the best deals. For example, this week it was listing ArnoldClark.com as a good place to buy a Fiat Panda 1.2 Pop for £7,645, a £1,450 saving on the list price.

If you're buying from a broker listed above then you should not encounter a problem. However, be wary of names that you have not heard of. Search for previous customer reviews before you hand over any money, and never use a car broker who wants all the money up front – stick to those that just put you in touch with the main dealer that takes a deposit. Always pay that with a credit, not debit, card.

Once your car arrives, or you go to pick it up, carefully check it is exactly what you ordered – does it have the air conditioning you paid for and so on, and is it free from delivery damage?

Once you are happy, pay the rest of the money by debit card. You may want to warn your card provider beforehand about your large purchase. Dealers mostly refuse to take cheques, for obvious reasons. Note that any dealer will undertake any required warranty work – you don't need to go back to the one who supplied the car.

Cash in on pre-reg glut

If your budget can't run to the new model you'd hoped for, consider a pre-registered car that is new in all but name. Pre-reg cars are typically a few months old with fewer than 200 miles on the clock, and should come with a big discount. Jim Holder, editor of What Car?, says dealers pre-register cars to artificially boost their sales numbers, meet their targets, and land their bonuses. It often happens towards the end of each month, once sales figures for that month are totted up.

However, bear in mind that you will be the second owner of the car and cannot choose the extra options you want. In addition, before you agree to the purchase make sure you will be given the V5C registration document. What Car? says it is against the law if it isn't handed over, and warns that unscrupulous dealers may tell you it will be posted. Note that some pre-reg vehicles are older models or "pre-facelift" cars, so check what you're buying.

With the warnings out of the way, the offers can be very worthwhile. This week What Car? found a pre-reg Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i (which lists at £10,200) for £8,450 in Dundonald, with 10 miles on the clock. A Teeside dealer had a Volkswagen Up 1.0 Move with 12 miles on the odometer for £8,550 (list price £9,670). Vauxhall Liverpool has a Zafira 1.8i 120 Exclusiv with just one mile on the clock for £10,499 – a huge saving on the list price of £19,120 and around £1,000 than the cheapest brand new dealer price we found.

"Sometimes, dealers can end up with a glut of pre-reg cars that they then need to sell quickly and they may drop the price to shift them and avoid the vehicles depreciating too much, but this varies from dealer to dealer, so it is still worth hunting around," says Holder.

(The guardian.com)


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