Small Car Buying Guide - Things to Consider Before Making a Purchase

We all need a change of pace every once in a while, and that’s especially true with our cars.

Knowing exactly what you should be looking for, however, isn’t always easy. And with so many different cars on the market, making the right choice can quickly turn into an overwhelming experience.

If you’re considering making a move from one vehicle to the next, this guide will help get you on the right path.

Your Quick and Easy Best Small Car Buying Checklist

Take a look at this handy guide and you’ll be behind the wheel of the best small car for you in no time.

1) What's your Budget?

Although it’s nice to flirt with window shopping for new cars, it pays to know your budget well before you commit to a decision. Not only will this save disappointment, it’ll also stop you from over-committing to a car purchase you really can’t afford.

Take the time to sit down and review your finances. Discount your expenditure from your monthly income and work out how much you have to play with.

If you don’t have the funds to buy a new car in cash up front, chances are you’ll be able to pay a smaller percentage as a deposit and make monthly repayments as part of a finance agreement. Bear in mind, however, that it works the same as a mortgage – you don’t actually fully own the car until the final payment has been made.

Regardless of the cash-flow flexibility finance agreements offer, buying outright is always the safest option. If, for example, you lose your job and have your budget severely restricted, you’ve still got your car. Having it on finance could see it repossessed.

2) New VS. Used - Which Should You Pick?

You’re probably aware that cars lose thousands of dollars in value as soon as they leave the forecourt. As a result, many people opt for used cars over their new counterparts, as it could mean they’re able to buy a higher-spec version for the same price as the current year’s base model.

Although it’s an initial budget preference, all cars have a lifespan and unfortunately, things do break. While a new car will give you the peace of mind that everything is in top condition, buying a used car pushes you further down that timeline, meaning you’ll almost certainly be paying for costly repairs sooner.

As a result, you’ll need to make the tough call whether you’re willing to sacrifice vehicle condition to save on upfront costs, with the potential for having to pay more on repairs sooner than you would on a new model.

3) Buy Private or From A Dealer?

On top of the critical new vs. used choice, you also need to think about the pros and cons of buying privately versus buying from a dealer.

If you buy a used car privately, there’s no guarantee that you’re getting what you pay for, as the seller isn’t bound by any formal laws to inform you of the vehicle’s outstanding faults (other than the standard safety check). All you’ll get is a face-value look at the car and a quick test drive.

Buying from a reputable dealer is usually the safest option, since you’re legally entitled to a statutory warranty, cooling off period, and a clear title guarantee. Bear this in mind when you make your choice.

4) Practicality - Does it do what you need it to?

Different people have different needs. Understandably, this means that while a car might be ideal for one person, it may not necessarily work for another.

For example, an inner-city professional might love the convenience and size of a Ford Focus, but a family of four won’t come close to fitting within its cosy doors.

Before deciding on the best small car for you, look past the fancy exteriors and work out what you actually need from it. If you spend most of your time bouncing from client to client, a high-tech internal sat nav will work well for you. If you’re a new driver hitting the road to commute and visit friends, safety features and smartphone compatibility might be more attractive.

It’s all about what meets your needs. Before committing to the best small car for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • How affordable is it?
  • What’s its fuel efficiency?
  • What safety features does it have?
  • What’s the internal tech like?

5) How Safe is it to Drive?

In the modern age, your top pick should be jam-packed with safety features ready to keep you secure and feeling confident when you hit the road. And safety is one thing you don’t want to be cutting corners on. To make sure you’re settling on the right choice, you need to do your research.

Fortunately, there are websites out there to make your job a whole lot easier. Both broken down into sections and covered by an overall score, popular automotive websites like carsguide.com.au will give you all the information you need about a car’s safety features in an easy-to-digest format. On top of user reviews, they even cover a car’s ANCAP safety rating – a stat which provides an unbiased, objective view of how well the car performed in a number of road hazard tests.

The Hyundai i30, for example, aced all of these tests. If you’re considering it as one of your options, check out what we think of it in our best small car comparison.

6) Does it Offer the Features you Need?

When buying a new car, the last thing you want is to agree to the sale, start driving it, and find out it’s lacking vital features. Understandably, if you’re used to cruise control or automatic braking already, you’ll miss them if your new car doesn’t have them.

As a result, finding out the features your new contenders offer is absolutely key to coming up with the right car for you. Make a shortlist of your top 3 favourite cars (within your budget – comparing a Ferrari to a Fiat is like comparing Michelin star to McDonalds) and check if they have the features you need.

If the answer is no, go ahead and strike them from the list. Unless you’re willing to sacrifice what you need to bring the price down a little, cars lacking in vital features will leave you unsatisfied and wanting more.

7) Thorough Test Drive and Inspection

Reading reviews and checking features will help you with your initial research, but you’ll still need a definitive way of making up your mind. The best way to do this? A test drive.

With a test drive, you’ll get to witness the car’s features first-hand. You’ll be able to see how comfortable the car is, judge whether it has enough space to meet your needs, and you’ll have a chance to check out all the features in full.

Looking for a car that ticks all the boxes? We recommend giving the Hyundai i30 a test drive. It’s affordable, bursting with internal and safety features, and has been voted Australia’s best small car six times. Why not book a test drive today?

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