Top tips for buying a car at Christmas

  • Potential for big savings before the new year
  • How to use the Parkers site to your advantage
  • You could start the new year with a bargain

Christmas can be a great time for deals. Retailers are keen to clear out stock for the new year and sales are often slow during the Christmas season, so dealers can be keen to complete sales.

The days between Christmas and New Year in particular can be a happy hunting ground as it’s a period between new plate releases and dealerships tend to be quiet, so they’re often more open to discounts to maintain sales figures.

Don’t just rush out there as soon as possible on Boxing Day, though – pour yourself a cup of tea, pick up a turkey sandwich and take a moment to explore the tools at your disposal right here on the Parkers site to make sure you’re as well prepared as possible before heading out in search of a bargain.

Which car is best for you?

The first step in buying a new car is working out what you want. The Parkers Review section has comprehensive evaluations of all the major models and even if you have your heart set on a particular make and model, it’s always worth putting its rivals under the microscope too.

Looking at used car at Christmas

Our reviews give you a host of information about a model you’re interested in, including what different engine options feel like to drive, what kind of equipment you get with different trim levels, how practical (or otherwise) it really is and which of its rivals are worth considering.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choice to a particular make and model – Ford Focus, for example – it’s then time to work out which particular derivative is the best fit for you.

To help you work out which one to go for, the Parkers team road tests as many models as possible to find out what they’re like out in the real world.

Once you’ve found a car you like it’s just a case of working out which specification you want, and whether you prefer petrol or diesel power.

Diesel cars generally cost more to buy and fuel than petrol ones, but they get more miles per gallon, hold their value better, and are usually cheaper to tax. If you do a lot of miles then it could be the better bet for you.

Researching car purchases and warranties

Pay the right price

Just because the car’s wearing a big ‘SALE’ banner or ‘20 percent off’ sticker on it, don’t assume it’s a great deal – sometimes prices are raised in the short term before a sale.

Check out the going rate in the Parkers Valuations section to find out how much you should expect to pay.

Our latest Deal Watch is a good starting point when it comes to finding a good price too, and from there make sure you check out our Cars for Sale section.

If you're considering buying your new car on finance, visit our car finance section for a simple, affordable and trusted service allowing you to finance the car you want at the best possible price.

How much will it cost you to run?

Use the Parkers Miles per pound details on new and nearly-new cars to see how far your money will go.

Used car dealer Mk 7 Escort

Check the paperwork

If you’re buying used then now is a good time to check all the paperwork and whether a full record of servicing has been kept. It’s also a good idea to get a history check to make sure there isn’t any outstanding finance, and that the car hasn’t been previously stolen or written off - just visit the Parkers Car History Check section and enter the car’s registration number.

Also, if you’re considering taking out finance, take a look at your options and the pros and cons of each finance method in our article here before signing on the dotted line.   

Taking a test drive

It might sound like an obvious thing to do but taking a test drive is vital.

Make sure you like the driving position, the locations of the controls and how the car feels to drive.

If you’re looking at a used car make sure you get a go when the engine is cold. If it’s been slyly warmed before you arrive it might hide all sorts of issues.

Also look for scuffed wheels and bumpers that might hint towards more serious damaged underneath the skin.

While driving select a high gear at a low speed and press the accelerator. If the engine gets louder but the speed doesn’t increase then there could be a problem with the clutch.

New car driving away

Perform a slow turn with the wheel turned all the way left and then right. If you hear any knocking or vibration then it could mean worn driveshafts or CV joints.

On a clear road brake firmly to check if the car stops in a straight line. It’s vital that the brakes work properly.

Also, make sure you take a pushchair and golf clubs, if you use them with you to make sure the car will fit into your lifestyle. Bring the family on the test drive too, it’s important to get an opinion from everyone.

Cash vs part exchange

Simplicity is the big attraction of part-exchange, however, dealers will be looking to maximise their profit so will offer the lowest price they can for your old car. Sometimes haggling can be difficult too as dealers will have a fixed margin for deals that they will not budge on.

If you’ve got the time, buying a new car with cash helps you haggle on the price, which means selling your old car beforehand to free up funds.

To find out what your car is worth, use Parkers valuations for an accurate price, all you need to do is put in the cars numberplate (or the make and model) and we’ll do the rest.

A private sale should net you a better price, but check the buyer’s funds have cleared before handing over the car. If they pay by cash, ask your bank to check the notes are genuine.

Click here to read our guide to writing a classified ad.

Don’t be afraid to walk away

Never enter into a deal you’re not entirely happy with. There are plenty more cars out there – and plenty of them in the Cars for Sale classifieds section on the Parkers site.

Need more help? These articles may help…

Top 10 cars to look out for in 2016

Four-wheel drive: myth or must-have?

Car tax: Top five tax myths dispelled

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Top 10 new cars for £150 per month