How to buy the best family car – and grab a bargain

It’s a moot point. As the SUV craze sweeps the country, many people are wondering: do we really need them?

For families it is clear where the advantages lie. The elevated seating positions of SUVs make it easier to buckle up child seats and give children a better view, which helps prevent car sickness.

Modern SUVs also tend to be jam-packed with clever features like sliding rear seats that make interior space more flexible and trade trunk space for rear legroom.

However, an SUV is not the answer to everything. For one thing, they tend to use a little more fuel than the equivalent family car – especially if, like many, they are equipped with more powerful engines and all-wheel drive.

While SUVs are practical, they don’t offer quite as much trunk space as traditional station wagons with rear seats installed. Additionally, because their boot lips are higher, smaller or older dogs may have a harder time climbing into them. So if you have a lot of clutter to carry or you have a pet, an estate might be a better choice.

New versus used

The pros and cons of buying new and used are no longer the same as they used to be. This is mainly because new car production is currently being hit by a pandemic-related shortage of electronic components.

When the first Covid-19 lockdowns kicked in, semiconductor and computer chip suppliers shifted supply away from cars, for which demand had completely fallen, and towards electronics, for which demand was exploding.

Now, however, demand for cars has returned and manufacturers are struggling to source these components, which are still in demand in other industries as well. This hinders new car production, which means an irregular supply of new cars and long waiting lists at dealers.

As a result, many who are nearing the end of their lease or financing terms are left months ago without a replacement and instead are looking for a used purchase. This, in turn, drives up the value of used cars.

When choosing between a new or used car, it is not only the cost that counts today, but also how long you are willing to wait for the next car. If you fully own your current car, this may not be an issue. However, if you need a car soon and cannot afford to be on a waiting list for several months, you may have no choice but to buy used.

Where to buy a family car

Most people buying a car go to their local dealership once they have decided what they want. But that might not be the way to get the best deal.

For example, if you are buying new or leasing, you may find better deals from brokers or specialist leasing companies whose economies of scale could mean they can price beat dealers.

In the used market, traditional dealers are now competing with car supermarkets and online dealers who will deliver a car to your door at no extra charge and with an unconditional money-back guarantee. Of course, if you go down that latter route, you’ll have to be content with buying the car and paying for it sight-seeing.

Even auctions can still make bargains. But if you’re looking to buy here, do your research first – and make sure you know what you’re doing. Some of the cars will have been unloved, others may have a patchy history while you can only see and hear the car driving when it is driven into the auction room – and you won’t be able to drive it until you’ve bought it.

Financing vs direct purchase How to buy the best family car – and grab a bargain

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