New-car sales are down, dealers are overstocked, buyers are in the driver's seat.
June is always the biggest month of the year for new-car sales, but 2014 is set to be bigger than ever. Dealers are overstocked and buyers have the upper hand, with discounts of up to $12,000 available on popular models.
Following last year's all-time high of 1.1 million sales, dealers and distributors ordered up big in anticipation of a repeat performance. But sales are down for the first five months of this year -- despite record low interest rates and some prices at 20-year lows -- and there is now an oversupply of vehicles.
Figures show private buyers are driving the market (business fleet deliveries are down by 9.1 per cent but private sales are up 1.6 per cent year-to-date), which is why the industry has focused the sharpest deals on cars for retail customers.
We've unearthed discounts of between $3000 and $12,000 off the full RRP across most of the mainstream brands. Although, a note of caution, you won't find massive savings on in-demand models that are in short supply.
We've also highlighted the hidden cost of metallic paint and compared the charges for routine servicing over three years (the only period all brands align, even though some servicing deals last for eight years).
Here are the best prices on popular new cars in the lead-up to June 30. Happy bargain hunting.
City cars are the next big thing, and will only become more popular as petrol prices rise and we try to squeeze into tighter parking spaces as our cities become more congested.
The super frugal 1.0-litre three-cylinder Suzuki Alto five door is the cheapest car from a mainstream brand at $12,990 drive-away with automatic transmission -- about $3000 off the full RRP. Suzuki is clearing stock ahead of an all-new model due about this time next year.
In Queensland, Suzuki’s special offer is on the Alto GL manual at a drive-away price of $11,990 after a $1,000 cash back.
However, be aware the Alto demands premium unleaded fuel, metallic paint adds $475, and capped price servicing is required every six months and is among the dearest in this class ($1284 over three years).
There are alternatives. The Mitsubishi Mirage (with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine) is available for $14,990 drive-away with automatic transmission (metallic paint adds $495). But we've heard of some dealers limboing to $13,990 drive-away for an auto depending on how close they are to hitting their monthly sales targets.
The Mirage has a five-year warranty (the Suzuki has three unless you maintain six-monthly dealer visits, in which case the warranty extends to five years) and capped price servicing. But Mitsubishi only requires a dealer visit once a year, which works out to a total of $750 over three years ($250 per visit).
The Mitsubishi Mirage has a little more oomph than the Suzuki Alto (by class standards) but the Mirage can feel a bit jiggly in bumpy corners compared to, say, a Nissan Micra (which is a better drive but, sadly, does not have a drive-away price this month; instead Nissan is promoting a finance offer which makes it difficult to figure out how much you're saving).
Need something bigger in the city car class? The Hyundai i20 five-door is available at the three-door price for a super-sharp $15,990 drive-away with automatic transmission (once you include a $1000 cash back offer). Save $3500 off the full RRP, but metallic paint adds $495.
Can you drive a manual? Drive away in a Hyundai i20 five-door for $13,990, the price that made Hyundai famous in the 1990s.
The i20 has the cheapest capped price servicing among the mainstream brands ($567 over three years, $189 per visit), although it runs out after three years even though the warranty lasts for five.
Holden has the Barina pricing starting from $15,490 drive-away.
Don't go looking for deals on Australia's two top-selling cars. The Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 are in relatively short supply and they're still enjoying their honeymoon period having been released in the past six to 12 months, so any amazing deal will depend entirely on your negotiating skills (see breakout below).
Holden is creating a buzz about the Cruze because last month it recorded its lowest sales since production switched from South Korea to South Australia four years ago.
Holden added a rear view camera to the Cruze "Z Series" which starts from $24,200 drive-away with automatic transmission (add $550 for metallic). But there are better cars in this class and this isn't a sharp price compared to what else is currently available; Holden's best offers are in other categories.
The best buy if you're on a budget is the Hyundai i30: $17,990 drive-away for a three-door 1.6-litre manual when you include the $1000 cash back offer. The 1.6 auto is $20,540 drive-away, about $4000 off the full RRP.
Need more doors and more grunt? The Hyundai i30 five-door 1.8-litre manual is $19,990 drive-away and $22,540 drive-away for the auto (once you include the $1000 cash back offers). Metallic paints adds $495.
Want leather seats and alloy wheels with that? Hyundai dealers will try to talk you into an i30 Trophy for $500 more.
Hyundai cars have a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and the cheapest capped price servicing in its class ($657 for the petrol i30), but the price certainty ends after three years.
Before you sign on the dotted line for a Hyundai i30, though, take its twin for a test drive. Hyundai's sister brand Kia has undercut the equivalent 1.8-litre Hyundai hatch by more than $2000.
The Kia Cerato 1.8-litre automatic hatch (or sedan) can be had for just $20,490 drive-away (add $520 for metallic paint), once a $1500 cash back offer is included, a saving of about $4000 off the full RRP.
The Kia also has a five-year warranty, and the capped price servicing lasts the length of the coverage. Servicing over three years is dearer than the Hyundai (even though they share mostly the same mechanical components) at $933 over three years (versus the Hyundai's $657).
The Nissan Pulsar is also worth a look at $21,990 drive-away with automatic transmission (add $495 for metallic paint). But be warned: Nissan still has among dearest capped price servicing of the mainstream brands: $1700 over three years.
That said, according to our Nissan dealer sources, good negotiators might find a further $1500 saving on the Pulsar if the dealer is particularly desperate to move metal. This would make the Pulsar more than $4000 off its full RRP.
Contrary to perception, however, some deals are so sharp there isn't enough room to throw in a set of floor mats. That's the case with the Volkswagen Golf at the moment, at $22,990 drive-away for the six-speed manual, including metallic paint. About $5000 off its full RRP.
Add $1500 for the DSG automatic (normally $2200) and you're in the traffic for $24,490 drive-away. Fixed price servicing is cheaper than you might expect, given it's a European car. Pay $931 over the first three years (and get servicing price certainty for six years).
The Golf is a superb car but there are two blots: no rear parking sensors and a question mark over the reliability of previous models.
If you plan to keep the Golf beyond the three-year warranty, it's worth taking up the factory-backed extended warranty underwritten by Alliance. However, the price has risen sharply in recent years (presumably due to a lot of claims). The VW offer for two years of extra factory warranty coverage (unlimited kilometres) is $3920. The same deal but with Alliance on the letterhead is $3590, but the kilometres are limited to an extra 50,000km.
Most extended warranties aren't worth the paper they're printed on (they often lock you into expensive servicing contracts and don't cover the big ticket repairs), but both of these cover the same items covered by the factory warranty.
The Holden Trax is one of the unsung heroes of the city-sized SUV class and you can use its lack of popularity to your advantage. The high-riding hatchback is available with automatic transmission for the price of a manual, and Holden has also taken care of the registration and on-road costs to limbo to just $24,990 drive-away, about $5000 off the full RRP.
The Trax has a three-year warranty and its capped price servicing costs are among the cheapest in the industry ($740 for three years), but it requires a visit to the dealer every nine months (at least it's not six months like most Japanese brands, but it's not good as a 12-month interval). The only catch in this deal is the charge for metallic paint: $550.
The Nissan Dualis is also good buying -- if you play your cards right -- because it is about to be replaced next month by an all-new model.
You'll be able to get a base model Nissan Dualis automatic for $28,490 drive-away without much haggling (add $495 for metallic paint) but, if the dealer is sitting on a lot of them, aim for a further $2000 off this price (to $26,490 drive-away), about $5000 off its full RRP.
Compared with the Trax, the Dualis has the advantage of a rear-view camera, better economy and it's a little nicer to drive. But the Nissan has among the dearest capped price servicing of the mainstream brands: $1802 over three years.
Need something bigger? The Kia Sportage is good buying. A mild update is around the corner so Kia dealers are pushing the current model out the door at $26,990 drive-away for a petrol automatic. Save $3500. Add $520 for metallic paint.
The Sportage has a five year unlimited kilometre warranty and, unlike Hyundai whose capped price servicing runs out after three years, Kia gives you price certainty for five years.
The service intervals are 12 months, which brings the first three services to a competitive $969.
Need something a little bigger in the compact soft-roader class? The Mitsubishi Outlander is the sharpest deal.
Not everyone is a fan of the Outlander's boxy styling and, to improve its appeal, Mitsubishi has been throwing equipment at it since it went on sale 18 months ago.
The Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0-litre petrol automatic is available for $29,490 drive-away once you take into account the $2000 cash back offer. Add $495 for metallic paint.
The Outlander petrol's capped price servicing costs are competitive: $1020 for the first three years ($340 per visit), although price certainty runs out after four years even though the warranty lasts for five.
Australia's cheapest family sedan just got cheaper. Last month the Toyota Camry automatic was $28,990 drive-away with 1 per cent finance -- but in the run up to June 30 it has limboed to a new low: $26,990 drive-away, about $8000 off the full RRP.
The catch: the $26,990 drive-away price excludes the super-low finance offer. While a rear camera is standard on all other Camry grades, it's a $500 option on the base model.
It's worth noting the Camry has among the cheapest capped price servicing ($130 per visit, or $780 over three years), although it requires a trip to the dealer every six months. At least Toyota has extended the servicing price certainty to four years or 75,000km -- one year after the warranty expires.
Meanwhile, Holden is having a red-hot go with its Malibu mid-size sedan, which has struggled against the Camry in every global market it competes in.
The Malibu CD with automatic transmission is $27,990 drive-away, but if you download a $1000 discount coupon from Holden's website, you'll be in a Malibu for $26,990 drive-away, about $4000 off its full RRP. Metallic paint adds $550.
The Malibu is slightly better equipped than the Camry because it gains a rear view camera and has music apps such as Stitcher and Pandora embedded into the car's touch screen (if that's your thing).
The servicing costs of these two cars over three years are comparable ($740 for the Holden versus $780 for the Toyota) but the Toyota requires a visit to the dealer every six months, Holden suggests you come back every nine months.
The Holden Malibu uses more fuel than the Toyota Camry and isn't as refined or as nice to drive. The other factor in the Toyota's favour is its bulletproof resale value, which will pay dividends when you go to sell it or trade-in for a new car in a few years.
These deals are too close for me to call, however. It's best to take both for a drive and decide for yourself.
Meanwhile, if you're feeling patriotic and want to buy a Ford Falcon before the Broadmeadows factory closes in October 2016, there are good deals on the sporty-looking XR6 six-cylinder sedan.
The advertised price is $33,990 drive-away for a manual; automatic typically adds $2000. But if you ask nicely you should be able to get an XR6 automatic for the drive-away price of the manual, a total saving of $10,000 off the full RRP. (That said, no-one has paid the full RRP for a Falcon for years).
The fineprint: metallic paint adds $385 to the Falcon. Ford offers capped price servicing for up to seven years (Falcon parts will be available for up to 10 years, even though the factory is closing), but pricing for the first three years of routine maintenance is competitive at $905 over three years (one visit every 12 months).
June is always the biggest month for ute sales but this year we are seeing unprecedented deals. Some might call it a perfect storm. I would call it bonkers.
Two of the top-selling utes, the Mitsubishi Triton and the Nissan Navara are nearing the end of their 10-year model cycles (all-new models are due in the next six months or so) and they are competing against much newer and, frankly, better competition.
But nothing can compete with the Mitsubishi Triton GLX-Plus double cab manual for $29,990 drive-away once the $2000 cashback is taken into account. That's a discount of $12,000 off the full RRP.
The other good news: the Triton has the longest warranty in the ute class (five years or 130,000km) and the peace of mind of capped price servicing, although it runs out after four years. At least the servicing costs are average for the class, at $1420 over three years.
Downsides? The Triton isn't as nice to drive as the newer competition, its cabin isn't as roomy, its towing capacity is 3000kg (versus the industry benchmark of 3500kg), and metallic paint adds $495. But the buying price is impossible to beat.
The base model Nissan Navara crew cab manual ute has previously limboed to the low-$30,000 drive-away price bracket. But for this year's June 30 deals Nissan is offering 1 per cent finance on the middle-of-the-range Navara ST dual cab at $37,990 drive-away for the Series 6 model built in 2013, a saving of about $5300 compared to an 8 per cent finance rate over the same three-year period.
Step up to the 2014-built Series 7 Navara ST and get navigation and a rear view camera for $39,990 drive-away. The $39,990 sticker is the same price as full retail -- but comes with a 1 per cent finance offer that equates to a saving of about $5500 compared to an 8 per cent finance rate over the same three-year period.
Downsides? The Navara has a relatively small 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine, towing capacity is rated at 3000kg and metallic paint adds $495 to the price. Nissan has capped price servicing but it's the dearest in the business: $2591 over three years (although there is price certainty for six years).
The scrap between Mitsubishi and Nissan has dragged the newer utes into the price war. Holden has extended its $37,990 drive-away deal on the Colorado LX dual cab 4x4 diesel to June 30 (it was originally a May-only deal).
It includes a free upgrade to automatic transmission (normally a $2200 option) and three years of free scheduled servicing (worth $1180 as it waives the four $295 services due every 9 months or 15,000km).
The Colorado can tow a claimed 3.5 tonnes (equal best with the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50). Downsides? Metallic paint is $550 (equal highest among the mass market brands with Toyota) and, on the road, it doesn't drive as well as the Ford Ranger or Volkswagen Amarok.
As the best truck on the block the Ford Ranger has been holding its prices high for the past two years, but improved supply out of the factory (and sharper priced rivals) have finally seen some deals emerge.
There are two solid options: the 2.2-litre diesel crew cab XLS manual is sharp buying at $41,990 drive-away (save $7500 off the full RRP), while the 3.2-litre version of the XLS is $44,990 drive-away (save $7000 off the full RRP).
Ford claims both engines can tow 3500kg, but if you plan on doing that a lot, stretch to the 3.2-litre engine. If not, the 2.2-litre is a good alternative.
Metallic paint adds $385 to both Ford trucks, while servicing costs over three years vary slightly ($1400 for the 2.2 diesel versus $1455 for the 3.2 diesel).
The Toyota HiLux has been the top-selling heavy-duty ute for the past 35 years. Its resale value is as strong as its reputation for durability. But now it's being attacked on all fronts Toyota is doing something it hasn't had to do in this class for a long time: discount.
Toyota has responded to its raft of rivals with two offers: $39,990 drive-away for the turbo diesel manual SR crew cab and $48,990 drive-away for the top-line turbo diesel manual SR5 crew cab (both about $7000 off their full RRPs).
The SR5 is the better deal if the budget stretches that far as it comes with navigation, a rear view camera, a chrome sports bar, and alloy wheels, among other bling.
Metallic paint adds $550 to the price of both models. Capped price servicing, although by far the cheapest of the heavy duty utes at $170 per visit (to $1020 over three years), is due every six months and expires after three years or 60,000km.
The Holden Captiva 7 is Australia's cheapest seven-seater SUV. At $28,990 drive-away (once the $1000 factory bonus is included) for the 2.4-litre petrol model, it's about $4000 off its full RRP -- and it undercuts the competition by a staggering $10,000.
The Captiva 7 is so cheap because it's eight years old and is due to be replaced by an all-new model within two years. That explains why it's not the nicest to drive, even by SUV standards, compared to the newer competition.
But even taking metallic paint into account (add $550) there is no going past the price. To sweeten the deal further, Holden has included a factory-fitted sunroof and 17-inch alloy wheels into the bargain this month.
The Captiva petrol's capped price servicing costs over three years are reasonable for an SUV ($980). The only blot: despite all the extra equipment Holden has loaded into the Captiva 7, the base model still lacks a rear camera. Only rear parking sensors are standard.
Need something bigger? A petrol-powered Ford Territory is available for $37,990 drive-away (a saving of $6000 off the full RRP) but you need to spend another $2500 to make it a seven-seater, bringing the price to $40,490 drive-away.
The Ford Territory is larger than the Holden Captiva, but the six-cylinder petrol engine is thirstier. At least Ford is giving away free servicing for three years (valued at $940). As with the base model Captiva 7, however, the base model Territory lacks a rear camera, getting only rear parking sensors.
Need something even bigger than a Ford Territory, more fuel efficient, and likely more reliable? Mazda gives you the most metal for the money when it comes to large seven-seat SUVs.
At $42,990 drive-away for the petrol-powered V6 front-wheel-drive, the Mazda CX-9 is sharp buying. That's about $6000 off the full RRP.
The last time it was at this price was at the start of 2013 when Mazda was trying to clear last year's stock. This price is on 2014-built vehicles.
The Mazda CX-9 had a facelift -- adopting Mazda's new corporate nose -- at the start of 2013 and still has about two years left to run before being replaced by an all-new model.
Mazda is one of the few brands not to charge for metallic paint but its servicing costs over three years are astronomical. This perhaps explains why it does not display menu pricing on its website: you have to type in your car's number plate -- after you've bought it -- to find out the price.
We borrowed a friend's log-in and were gobsmacked to find that the CX-9 costs $2214 to service over three years (with six-month intervals), making it the dearest in the business. Use the good oil that Mazda recommends and the charge climbs to $2322.
Mazda is poised to overhaul its servicing prices next month, which will reduce the servicing price to $1499 on this vehicle (still expensive) and reduce visits to once every nine months or 10,000km, which ever comes first.
Don't need something this big? There are no advertised offers on the Mazda CX-5, but with some savvy and polite negotiating you can get the base model front-drive 2.0-litre petrol automatic for $30,500 drive-away (about $2500 off full RRP). If the dealer you approach says no, try another one.
The Mazda CX-5 isn't as big as the Holden Captiva and Ford Territory -- it's only a five-seater -- but it comes standard with a rear-view camera, it's frugal on petrol and super reliable. But as with its bigger brother, the Mazda CX-5's servicing costs are painfully high: $1984 over three years or $2080 if you use the good oil.
However, Mazda is poised to move to capped price servicing from July, which equates to $1343 over three years (spilt over an average dealer visit of every nine months) which is better than before but still at the dearer end of the scale.
How did we find these prices?
Believe it or not, most prices you see here came from car company websites. But we also pored over the fineprint to highlight the differences in standard equipment, the price of servicing, the cost of metallic paint and other anomalies. Then we spoke to dealer sources to find out what savings are possible once you're in the showroom. You won't find a bargain price on every car -- especially those that are in strong demand and short supply -- but if you're open minded and prepared to take a punt you'll drive away in front.
Not found what you're looking for? A word of advice…
A number of big name brands aren't publishing discounted prices on their websites. Instead, they're promising, for example, $5000 worth of free accessories, $4000 worth of fuel, or "free" on-road costs. My suggestion: give these deals the wide berth and find a brand that has transparent pricing.
However, if the car you want is tangled in one of these offers, then go hard. Offer a low-ball price and see what comes back. As a guide, if the RRP of the car before on-road costs are added is, say, $34,990 (which will typically calculate to roughly $39,990 drive-away) aim to pay the RRP price but drive-away. Feeling brave? Try to go $500 below RRP but as a drive-away price (or ask to not be charged for metallic paint).
The dealer won't enjoy this, so it pays to be polite. And they'll only do the deal if they're overstocked or need to hit their monthly sales target. Good luck.