Hoping to spring into this motoring year and spoil yourself with a new car? Well, now is the time.
This week marks the launch of the new ’22 car registration plate, which traditionally fires the starting gun that prompts car swaps — making March the biggest month for vehicle sales.
Covid-induced production delays have created unprecedented demand for second-hand cars, with prices higher than ever.
In the showroom: There are plenty of cars to choose from for the new ’22 plate including the fifth generation Kia Sportage (pictured), from £26,745, now being delivered
Post-pandemic, Britain’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) predicts new car sales will rise by around 15.2 per cent to about 1.897 million in 2022 — up from 1.65 million in 2021 — but still well short of the regular highs of 2 million plus.
Since September 2001, we’ve had a twice yearly plate change — on March 1 and September 1.
This was brought in to flatten the demand peak for cars which — under the previous annual August 1 new plate — meant manufacturers were increasing production and stockpiling for that one date in the year.
But there’s still excitement around the new plate signifiers.
Each year since 1989 the DVLA has held back and sold at auction certain number plates that may spell a name or a word (though anything rude or offensive is withdrawn) raising more than £2 billion for the Treasury in three decades.
Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) trade body representing franchised car and commercial vehicle dealers in the UK, says: ‘Buying a new car is exciting and by asking the right questions you will make your experience even more enjoyable’.
The NFDA (nfda-uk.co.uk) suggests a checklist that applies equally to second-hand cars.
The Kia Sportage from the rear. Nearly half (45 per cent) of new car buyers say they would consider postponing an order if the car didn’t arrive at the correct time
Try before you buy: Always take a test drive. There is no substitute for trying it out for yourself. Trust your instincts
When comparing deals, use the on-the-road price that manufacturers advertise. This is made up of the basic ‘ex-works’ price, VAT, number plate, delivery charges, vehicle excise duty (VED), and first registration fee.
However, experts at Autovia publishing — which includes Auto Express — fear a significant number of new-car orders may be postponed by those who remain attached to owning the latest number plate.
Nearly half (45 per cent) of new car buyers say they would consider postponing an order if the car didn’t arrive at the correct time, according to a poll by Auto Express and Carbuyer magazines.
Autovia editor-in-chief Steve Fowler says: ‘Many people remain strongly attached to the thrill of the latest plate.
‘But a significant minority seem prepared to defer their purchases if the car cannot be registered exactly when they want.’
However, there are still plenty of cars to choose from — if you don’t mind waiting…
On a plate: Six new cars for ’22
Vauxhall Astra: The sharp new Astra hatchback hits showrooms in May, from £23,805, while the Astra Sports Tourer estate, from £25,005, follows in summer.
Peugeot 308: Ready to order with deliveries from May, the 2022 Peugeot 308 — from £24,000 up to £38,800 for the plug-in hybrid GT — is the first to have the marque’s bold new look.
Kia Sportage: The fifth generation Kia Sportage from £26,745 is now being delivered.
Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron: Priced from £44,040, the new 299 hp electric Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron crossover has a range of 320 miles.
Citroen C5X: Elegant Citroen C5X crossover available as a plug-in hybrid from £35,190 with petrol variants to follow from £26,490.
BMW i4: The dark horse BMW i4 electric fast-back surprised and delighted at launch and is priced from £51,905.
- What type of car suits my needs — hatchback, saloon, sports, estate, SUV (sports utility vehicle) or MPV (multi-purpose vehicle), coupe, convertible; will I carry goods or people or both; what about the children?
- Do I want an automatic or manual; how many doors; and should I stick to a traditional petrol or diesel, or try a hybrid — plug-in or self-charging — or go fully electric?
If thinking about an electric vehicle, ask yourself: where and how will I charge it; are there public charging stations near where I live, work or shop; what incentives can I take advantage of to help offset an EV’s cost?
Sue Robinson adds: ‘If you are looking to purchase an electric vehicle, remember to visit an Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA) retailer.’
The EVA system is endorsed by the Government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles and the Energy Saving Trust and provides accreditation to retailers.
Remember it’s also about finding a car you can live with. So ask yourself:
- Is my garage big enough; what about insurance class and area cost; do I understand fully the deposit terms, conditions of sale (including any finance agreement, interest charges and trade-in price on my existing car)?
- Will there be restrictions on the warranty terms?
And always take a test drive. There is no substitute for trying it out for yourself. Trust your instincts.
Thrill: Many people enjoy having a new registration plate — and options now include electric vehicles, too
Then there’s the vexed question of actually paying for it.
Set your budget and decide how you’d like to pay. Some deals let you pay by instalments, spreading the cost over years, after which you can trade or keep the car.
Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) is a leasing option if you do not want to buy the vehicle outright.
The NFDA says: ‘You pay a deposit and then a fixed number of monthly repayments. Once the term is completed you either hand the car back, make the final settlement payment and keep the car, or use it as part exchange to buy a new car.’
- Hire Purchase (HP) gives you a plan where you pay the deposit upfront and spread the cost of the car over a fixed period: ‘You do not own the vehicle until the final payment is made. Monthly repayments tend to be higher than PCP’.
- Personal Contract Hire (PCH) is a type of long-term rental that may suit you if you are not looking to buy the car at the end of your contract and will not need to change it before the end of the contract: ‘You lease the car for an agreed period of time by making fixed monthly payments. When the contract expires, you simply return your car.’
And if it all goes wrong, mug up on your consumer rights and how to complain.
A good place to start is with Motor Ombudsman (the motorombudsman.org) which acts as the arbitrator in disputes and produces a code of practice and vehicle sales code to protect consumer rights.
Significantly, online vehicle purchases mean different laws apply.
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