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Buying a car with your head, not your heart
South Africans are still buying new cars - even with rising interest rates, fuel price increases, and the cost of living getting more expensive by the day.
In fact, new vehicle sales statistics for October 2022 show a year-on-year increase of 11.4%, according to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa).
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Marius Roberts, respected motoring expert, well-known television presenter, and self-confessed straight shooter, shares why it’s important to buy a car with your head, not your heart.
“I know this is a flippin’ difficult thing to do. Europeans are very pragmatic in terms of their purchasing decisions. In South Africa, cars are not really about getting from A to B, they are more about statements of our personalities. It says a lot about who we are or maybe who we want people to think we are. It’s very difficult to dial back that enthusiasm.”
What car will really work for your lifestyle?
Marius comments that it’s important to end up in with a car that suits your lifestyle and needs.
“Here’s a great example. South Africans love their bakkies. Most of them are double cabs, four by four, they've probably gone and fitted aftermarket mud terrain tyres. They look the part. But a bakkie was originally developed to be a workhorse. Now, these bakkies are not really doing anything like that. Maybe they carry the occasional load of garbage to the dump or maybe you are putting your kids in it on your school run. You don't need a four-by-four for that, yet people are buying these bakkies because, again, it appeals to their lifestyle and status.”
Instead, when it comes to purchasing a car, he recommends that you work out what exactly your needs are. So, ask yourself how far you drive every day. Are you doing 50 to 60 kilometres a day? Are you driving on highways? Then you want to look for a car that offers low fuel consumption, is automatic, and comfortable.
He adds, “What are the commute conditions? If you are driving in suburbia, doing big mileage, or going on gravel and dirt roads, that certainly is going to change what you need from your car. Are you growing your family? These are things you need to look at - long term - because most of us do not own a car for three months – we are buying cars for five or six years.”
It’s important to end up in with a car that suits your lifestyle and needs – long-term. Most of us don’t own a car for three months – we are buying cars for five or six years.
Get more bang for your buck
Marius has owned sports cars, fun cars, SUVs, etc, but not one of these has been off the showroom floor. Why?
“Well, I like to get more car for my money,” he explains. “Many people want a new car, that is what their heart is telling them. But I look at how much bang for my buck can I get. That's why second-hand cars have always worked for me and I have never had a bad experience.”
He suggests that if you are not someone who is doing massive mileage every single year (35 000 plus kilometres), you should seriously consider looking in the second-hand car market because it allows you to get a bigger, more powerful car with more specifications. It’s better value than what you get with a brand-new car.
He acknowledges that there are concerns about buying second-hand cars. Is it going to be reliable and safe? “Most people are buying cars through a dealer and most of those cars will still have their factory warranties of three to five years. That is your peace of mind. So, those would be the second-hand cars that I would consider.”
He also suggests that buying cars that are maybe a little bit more left-field, will also help you get more bang for your buck. “For example, cars that maybe are not in the most popular colour, that also makes a big difference in terms of picking out some real bargains.”
Are used cars reliable?
Most people buying a used car in South Africa are doing so through a dealer, and most of these cars will still have their factory warranties of three to five years. Purchased through a reputable dealer, these used vehicles can be just as reliable as one bought new, and far more affordable. Private sales can carry more risk.
Find a car dealer you trust
Whether you are buying new or used, you should spend time looking into the car dealership that you're planning to buy from. “You need to look for good, personalised customer service. I think if you find that relationship with a dealer, it's very highly unlikely that you are going to find yourself moving into another brand over the years,” he adds.
Make a list of potentials and do your research
Marius emphasises the importance of doing your research and test-driving as many cars as possible.
“At the end of the day, you want to be passionate about what you buy. But you need to be buying with your needs in mind. That will get you into a car that you really love that deserves to be in your garage and saves you a lot of money.
He suggests making a list of cars that you are potentially interested in and researching these online.
“There are so many really good quality reviews online that will highlight the pros and cons of each model. Narrow that list down to two or three cars and that is when you need to go to a dealer and get your bum in those seats.” He mentions that a test drive should not be a quick ride around the block. “You are going to love everything about the car on a short drive. Try and spend as much time in the car as possible before you commit to that big, big purchase for five to six years.”
“Narrow your list down to two or three cars and that is when you need to go to a dealer and get your bum in those seats.”
And once you’ve decided what vehicle is right for you, make sure you are aware of the potential hidden costs of buying a car before exploring your vehicle finance options.
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I think like most boys growing up in this country, I was completely car crazy... I found myself drawn into reviewing cars and doing motoring journalism. That is something I've been doing for the last 15 years.
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