Sitting in the car showroom deciding which model to go for can be a baffling experience.
Even if you’re set on buying something as simple as a Ford Fiesta – the UK’s bestselling new car – you have the choice of three and five door versions, manual and automatic gearboxes and petrol and diesel motors. And that’s before you work out which of the 10 specification levels best suits your needs.
We’ve rounded up a number of simple tips to help you decide which model to go for, to make sure that you get the best value and most suitable car for your needs.
Consider fuel economy – and purchase price
If you’re an average driver – covering 7,900 miles per year – fuel bills for a typical petrol supermini, like the Ford Fiesta 1.25 82, could cost you around £800 per year.
Opt for a more efficient petrol version and you could save money at the petrol pumps, but are likely to pay more in the showroom. In the case of the Ford Fiesta, going for the 1.0-litre 80 model over the 1.25 82 version should save you around £170 per year in fuel bills but will cost you an additional £500 to buy.
What this means, is that it will take someone covering 7,900 miles per year nearly three years before being better off with the more expensive 1.0-litre model; if you plan on owning the car for more than three years the 1.0-litre car is a better buy, otherwise opt for the 1.25.
Don’t automatically opt for a diesel or hybrid
Diesel and hybrid versions typically return stronger fuel economy than petrol models, but they can cost substantially more, potentially cancelling out the lower fuel bills. Choosing a 1.5-litre diesel Ford Fiesta, for instance, could set you back £1,500 more than an equivalent petrol.
A driver covering 7,900 miles per year would have to own the diesel for more than six years before the pricier diesel would pay for itself with its lower fuel consumption. The general rule, is that the more miles you cover, the more you’ll save by paying extra for a more economical version.
Cut your car bills with free road tax
A number of economical new cars now fall into the free car tax band, as they emit low levels of CO2. If you’re used to stumping up £205 for an older car in tax, switching to an economical new low-emissions model could instantly save you several hundred pounds in tax alone.
Even if your new car falls into the second-lowest tax band the annual bill will be just £20 under current prices. However, the difference between a car that emits 120g/km of CO2 versus one that puts out 121g/km is a more substantial £80 per year, so it’s worth checking a car’s tax band before signing on the dotted line.
Choose your trim level wisely
Most new cars are stuffed with high tech equipment that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. While some buyers value this new kit, there’s no point paying more to buy a car with these features, if you’re not going to make use of them.
Titanium trim on the Fiesta, which adds a digital radio, cruise control, climate control and a perimeter alarm will set you back £1,000 more than the model one rung down. Work out whether the extra features justify that price premium before taking the plunge.
Avoid expensive options
Opting for pricey options can quickly bump up a car’s price. Front and rear parking sensors and electric folding mirrors, for instance, could set you back an extra £425, while leather seats could add £800 to the price.
It’s good to know exactly which features you want before going to the showroom to avoid being convinced to opt for costly extras that you don’t really want in the heat of the moment.