Australian car market: Car sales, statistics and figures
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You've probably heard, or even just guessed, that now is a very good time to be buying a new car.
Sales are down in this time of crisis and extreme financial caution, and while car dealers are allowed to stay open and are operating as normally as possible, a lot of people don't realise this is the case.
And with EOFY approaching - always a time when car dealers are looking to make a long, hard run at their annual sales targets - there's only going to be more pressure to get deals done.
Combine all these factors and it's fair to say that car dealers are nowhere near hitting the quotas they were a year ago, or even a quarter ago, so they're particularly motivated to sell, and to provide some amazing deals on any vehicle you're looking to trade in if it's going to help them make a sale.
That doesn't mean you don't need to make an effort, of course, because everything you can do to make your second-hand car look and feel brand new is still going to add significantly to its perceived value. Yes, this can take time, but fixing up your used car as much as possible - regardless of whether you're going to trade it in or sell it privately - is truly one of those things where time is money.
If you're keen to know, straight away, what sort of ball park you might be playing in when it comes to the trade-in or resale value of your current car, you can use the CarsGuide Price Tool.
The big decision, of course, is whether to go for that deal in a car yard, which is the quicker but arguably more stressful option, or to sell your car privately, which means going through the whole process of marketing and sales yourself - taking the photos, writing the advertisement, dealing with tyre-kickers and test drivers and then negotiating over price.
Yes, it's true that you'll usually get a slightly better price by selling privately, but it is more work, and it's always going to take longer. And keep in mind that our current circumstances are not normal, so while a dealer is always going to try and maximise margin by pushing down your trade-in price, they might not be going quite as hard on that approach when they're super keen to make sales.
The fact is, of course, that the process of getting maximum return on your used car isn't as simple as getting it properly cleaned and detailed before you try to sell or trade it. It's a process that started a long time ago - when you chose your vehicle, and its colour, trim and spec levels - and then continued, effectively, every day that you owned it.
If you insisted on parking it where bats like to defecate, rather than in a garage, and you weren't as anally retentive as you could have been when it came to keeping it clean - and guano free - the whole time, then you've already done some damage to your resale value.
It should go without saying, but it's also a very good idea to never smoke in your vehicle, as that's a smell, and a stain, that's going to cost you in the long run. For similar reasons, we'd advise you not to drive around with your moulting dog in the car. Again, it's a smell that you can never really get rid of, and that dog hair seems to have an almost unnatural attachment to car interiors.
If you have a time machine handy, it might be worth going back to reconsider some of your original choices (or, more sensibly, considering such factors this time around). Buying a little-known and little-loved brand of vehicle, or a particularly obscure model within a well-known one, is going to be problematic for a start.
The best-selling cars are the ones that people want, regardless of whether they're new or second hand, so they're generally going to have better resale value. That cheap-up-front Chinese car might well see its value fall of a cliff in a year or two.
It's also worth considering, in the modern market, the relative risk of buying a diesel engine rather than a petrol one, or a manual gearbox versus the far more popular, and thus saleable, automatic variants. Give some serious thought to paint colour as well. Weird, lurid colours do not hold appeal for everyone. Or even many people.
Once you've chosen a vehicle that will have good resale down the line, it's important to look after it well, and that means more than just parking it under cover and cleaning out the detritus inside on a regular basis.
It's also very much about being able to present an up-to-date logbook with a detailed service history that shows you always did the right things at the right time to keep your car in perfect running order.
It should come as no surprise that vehicles that have been serviced at dealers - and thus worked on by the people best trained for that brand - are seen to be more valuable as trade-ins than those that aren't.
Cars that have also been kept cleaned and vacuumed, with their leather treated regularly where necessary, are also rated more highly, both by private buyers and professionals.
"You can tell if they have been poorly looked after and then given a quick detail before sale," as one wholesaler told CarsGuide.
What's also clear is that the fewer minor dings and scratches your car shows - and the less scraped the wheels - the more attractive it's going to be in terms of resale or trade-in value. The advice from dealers is that it's better to use your car insurance to get these things fixed, particularly if you're fully insured, then it is to let the buyer talk you down on price because your vehicle looks a bit beaten up.
"Why people don't use their insurance to get these things fixed is beyond me," as a dealer told us.
No, you can't wind the odometer back on your car, but if you're thinking about trading in or trading up in the near future, consider doing it sooner rather than later. A car with more than 100,000km instantly feels significantly less valuable than one with 90,000 and something. It doesn't make sense, but psychology just works that way.
The lower the kilometres the better, and also be aware of any major services that might be coming up soon. Well informed buyers will know this, and will talk you down on price if there's something pricey - like a new timing belt for example - in the offing.
It seems like a simple trap, but it works all too often. Beware a car dealer offering you an incredible trade-in price, far more than you'd hoped for, and check the changeover price before signing any deal.
What can happen is that you'll be offered a very good price on your car but then the dealer adds a commission to the price of the new vehicle, and suddenly you're paying more than you bargained for.
What you need to ask for is the changeover price; the exact amount you'll be paying for the new car, once the trade-in is accounted for. That's the only number you need to know so you can compare different offers and deals exactly.