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Gearing Up for Seasonal Car Shopping – or Selling

Buying a new car

I saw eggnog for sale in my local grocery store this week and thought “TOO SOON, SAFEWAY!” But apparently the holiday season approacheth and with it, the best time to purchase a new car. Experts say that the winter months are the best times of year to buy a new car, for a few reasons, such as:

  • The upcoming year’s models are arriving and room must be made for them in the showroom, so deals on the current year’s vehicles may be available as dealers try to clear out their stock.

  • When it’s dark and cold outside, driving is less fun, so car dealers try to entice potential buyers with seasonal deals.

  • The closer we get to the end of the year, the closer dealerships get to deadlines for meeting their monthly and yearly quotas; their urgency to make their quotas may work to your benefit.

If you can hold off on purchasing a car until the frost is on the ground, here are a few tips from our post about questions to ask when buying a new car:

  • Has the car been used as a demo or test drive? Not all test drives go smoothly; make sure you get the details on how the car has been treated. Did the salesperson practice doing donuts in the parking lot on Sunday morning? A small amount of mileage may be acceptable, but make sure you know what kind of mileage it is.

  • What is the total price of the car after fees and licensing? Dealerships will often try to focus you on the monthly payment rather than the total price of the car (after all, most of us budget on a monthly basis). But a few more dollars a month can really add up on a 5 year loan. Make sure the total price you're paying is in line with what you expect to pay. You may need to compare your options such as manufacturer's rebate vs 0% interest or the deal your bank offers vs the loan the dealership offers. Make sure you understand the dollars and cents of the deal.

  • Does this car make me happy? After you've taken it for a test drive, assess your mood ... does it make you happy when you drive it? Is everything comfortable and in reach? Will it fit your lifestyle (kids, large pets, surfboards)? Do you enjoy driving it? You don't want to buy such a big ticket item if it doesn't put a smile on your face.

  • Is that the best you can do? It's always worth asking this question at least once in your purchase process. Make sure you are taking advantage of manufacturers' rebates and incentives as well as incentives from the dealership. But car purchase negotiations can be incredibly stressful and aren't for everyone. There is help through services like Unhaggle and Car Cost Canada.

So you’re buying a new car – but what about your current vehicle? Trading it in may be an option; but depending on the state of your vehicle, you may make more money simply selling it yourself. Here are a few tips from our post about preparing your car for resale:

  • Perform routine maintenance. The number one way to get the best value for your vehicle is to keep up-to-date with vehicle maintenance. Regular maintenance keeps your car running safely and prolongs the life of your car. When you decide to sell, have a trained technician give your vehicle a thorough going over before you put it on the market.

  • Prepare your documentation. Gather all the documentation for your vehicle, including proof of ownership, owner’s manual, warranty information and any records you've kept of repairs and maintenance. If emissions tests are required in your area, have the results of your latest test available as well. Include any spare car keys in your documentation package.

  • Take your own test drive. Try test driving your car the way a buyer might. Does the car start easily? Does the gear shift work properly? Are the brakes soft? After your drive, check under the hood for any drastic reductions of fluid which could indicate fluid leaks. Address any performance issues.

  • Hit the car wash. Washing and detailing your car can go a long way towards improving a potential buyer’s opinion. Vacuum the interior of your vehicle as well, paying close attention to mats and underneath the seats. If pet or tobacco odours linger, consider taking your car for a full professional shampoo.

  • Say cheese. You may have luck putting a "For Sale" sign in your car window, but most private car sales these days take place online. Make sure you take a good - and accurate - set of photos of your vehicle. Again, think about photos YOU would like to see before agreeing to take a car out for a test drive.

  • "Car! For sale. Email for more info." No. Write an ad for your vehicle that's detailed, accurate and easy for prospective buyers to scan. It doesn't have to be literary gold - but take the time to write an ad that's truly representative of the state of your vehicle.

  • Know your value. You may have paid top dollar for that Dodge Aspen back in 1977 but what's it worth now? Check out an online resource like the Kelley Blue Book to get an idea of your car's value - and check out the local listings on eBay Motors or Craigslist to get an idea of what similar vehicles are going for.

Of course, if your vehicle is on its last legs, recycling it may be the kindest option.

Are you in the market for a new vehicle this year? Do you wait until you can track down the best possible deal or do you just know what you want and just go for it? Let us know in the comments.

- Rose R.

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