You're driving along the road when suddenly — cruuuunk. You're no mechanic but that doesn't sound right.
Pulling into the nearest layby in a plume of white smoke, it's clear that your trust car is nearing the end of it's life. And you know what that means?
It's time for a new car!
But where do you start? With dozens of car manufacturers and hundreds of cars on the market, it can seem like a daunting challenge.
Well, your favourite leasing comparison site is here to help! We've pulled together our favourite car buying tips to create an awesome guide for ! Have read and let us know how you get on in the comments.
Remember why you’re switching
While some of us will wake up one Thursday morning with an unexplained, burning desire to lease a new car, for most of us the decision to get a new car is actually based on something. Maybe the high running costs start to annoy you? Or the lack of space gets on your nerves?
Whatever your motivations, it's super important to keep hold of them while you're on the hunt for a new car.
We spoke to Danny Watkinson of Miler Off Road about how he brings his buying choices back to concrete needs:
"When it comes to choosing your next car it's very easy to get caught up focusing on looks and speed, however, it's incredibly important that you look past this and consider whether the car actually suits your needs.
"For example, what sort of journey lengths are you going to be making in it? Is it friendly for any kids that you have now or may have in the future? Do you have a caravan? If so the car needs towing power.
"When choosing a car, really think about what it is you're going to use it for and make a choice accordingly."
Don't get seduced by fancy adverts and marketing gimmicks. Keep your head, remember why you want a new car and find a set of wheels that ticks all of your boxes.
Work out your budget
Budget is the biggest factor for ninety-nine percent of people. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as asking: How much can you afford to spend on a car?
With car leasing, there're two different costs to consider.
- Initial rental: With leasing, you choose between paying 3, 6, 9 or 12 months upfront at the start of your lease. The more you pay upfront, the lower your monthly payments and vice versa.
- Monthly payments: After you make your initial rental payment, you pay a set amount each month to keep using the car.
Okay, so that's not too difficult. You pay a big(ish) chunk at the start of your deal then little monthly chunks all the way through. Simple, right?
Well, kind of. Just to confuse matters a bit more, you should also think about running costs. But more on that later.
Once you’ve got your budget set, you can plug it into LeaseFetcher and filter the results to show only the cars that you can actually afford. Unfortunately, that means no more lusting after a Lamborghini Aventador.
Pick a body style
After your budget, the next biggest decision is body style, which is basically the general shape and style of your car.
With LeaseFetcher, we’ve kept things simple and put every model in one of eight body styles: 4x4, City-car, Coupe, Estate, Hatchback, MPV, Saloon and Sports.
Yes, we know that there are dozens more super specific body styles like crossovers, roadsters, cabriolets and fastbacks. But if we included every single style, you wouldn’t be able to find anything!
Here’s how we've divided up the body styles.
- 4x4: While they were originally designed for shifting sheep and towing trailers, you’re more likely to spy a big all-wheel-drive offroader parked in a plush driveway than a field. If you like a raised driving position, bags of space and confidence on snowy roads, look no further.
- City car: Also called a compact or mini, the city car is unsurprisingly a car designed for the city. They’re small, cheap and easy to park — perfect for life on congested streets.
- Coupe: Ask any two people and you what a coupe is and you’ll get two completely different answers. If you ask us, coupes are two-door, hard-tops with a roof that slopes down at the back. Simple.
- Estate: Estates are usually just stretched versions of a saloon or hatchback. The longer length means you get an enormous boot and spacious interior. However, they rarely look as good as the car they're based on. That said, Volvo is making some fine looking estates at the moment. Check out the V60 and V40, in particular!
- Hatchback: Defined by its bootlid and window, which are one solid unit, hatchbacks are small(ish), cheap(ish) and bags of fun. They’re an excellent compromise car that ticks almost every box.
- MPV: Multi-Purpose Vehicles or MPVs are big, practical cars designed for families and anyone else who needs a lot of space. They aren’t the fastest or the sleekest but you’ll be hard pushed to find more internal space for your money.
- Saloon: Think of saloons as three boxes stuck together. In box number one, you’ve got the engine, in box number two, you’ve got the cabin and in box number three, you’ve got the boot. Each box is separate and closed off from every other one. In the UK, the saloon market is dominated by luxury brands like Audi and Mercedes.
- Sports: This is a bit of a catch-all for fast, fun and utterly impractical cars. If you want to get technical, our sports car category include sub-styles like roadsters and cabriolets.
Check the running costs
Cars cost a fair bit of money to run. There’s road tax (or Vehicle Excise Duty if you want to be technical), MOTs, servicing, repairs, insurance and petrol to name a handful of costs.
Thankfully, with a leased car you can ignore a couple of those.
New cars, for example, only need an MOT when they hit three-years-old. And considering most leasing deals are two or three years long, that ain't your problem. Likewise, new cars tend to be much more efficient, which means the road tax tends to be much lower or even zero.
Chances are you biggest running cost will be petrol. And your petrol costs, in turn, will vary hugely depending on the efficiency of your engine, the distance you travel and your style of driving.
When you’re looking into fuel efficiency, remember that manufacturers usually test their cars under the most idyllically ideal of conditions to get an MPG figure as high as possible.
Out in the real world with stop-start traffic, harsh acceleration, headwinds, potholes and soft tyres, you’ll rarely get anywhere near the manufacturer’s quoted rate. Check out reviews for real-world fuel consumption rates and base your decisions on that.
Finally, remember that, even with a leased car, you still need insurance. And with leased cars, you'll need, at least, a fully comp policy.
Most brokers will also insist you take out GAP (Guaranteed Asset Protection) insurance, too. GAP insurance basically covers the car for the new list price, instead of the new depreciated value, which ensures that the finance company can recoup their loses if you ever crash.
Make a shortlist
By this point, you should know how much you’ve got to spend, what kind of car you’re looking for and how much it’ll cost to run.
And that should have whittled several thousand car models down to a dozen or so.
Next, trawl through that list and pick out the best of the best to build your shortlist. Be tough on them and narrow your choices down to about three or four cars. Any more and you’ll struggle to really compare them. Any less and it's tricky to get a feel for what the industry's got to offer.
Once you’ve got your shortlist, it’s time to test drive!
Go for a test drive
In this digital world, test drives can feel a bit old school. I mean, you’ve already watched eight YouTube reviews, read a dozen blog features and trawled motoring forums for first-hand opinions so do you really need to test drive it for yourself?
Yes! You really really really do!
When you’re sitting in front of a computer, it’s easy to persuade yourself that a car has every single thing you want. When you’re actually behind the wheel, it’s much much harder.
Is the driving position really high enough? Are these seats really comfortable enough for long distance driving? Is the wind noise really bearable? Is the handling really tactile enough?
It's this type of question you should be asking yourself as, when you're behind the wheel, there's no hiding from the truth.
Find some nearby dealerships and book some test drives for every car on your shortlist.
When you’re out on the road, make sure you drive the car like you would on a normal day. If your commute is all motorway, try and get up to motorway speeds. If you’re always stuck in traffic, go find some congestion. (Seriously, do this! Cars can be wonderful places to be on a motorway and awful places to be in a traffic jam!)
Take your time throughout the test drive and don’t let them rush you. If you’re thinking about leasing a car for two, three or four years, you have to be certain that you like it.
Go forth and choose!
Right, motivations identified, budget set, body styles picked, running costs checked, shortlist made and test drives driven. You're ready to make your decision, right?
Go forth and choose! Then drive off into the sunset! Oh, but make sure you pop back and show off your new wheels in the comments.