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Buying a new car: are you making the right choice?

If you’re heading to a forecourt this weekend to look at new registration cars, are you making your buying decision on the right criteria? We've the questions to help you get the best value.

For many buying a car is about how it looks, the gadgets included or even just the colour. If that's how you shop, you aren't alone. A report from market intelligence agency Mintel found nearly half of buyers look for reverse assistance or inbuilt satnav. Other popular features deemed important included cruise control and an adjustable steering wheel.

But these choices might not be giving you the best value for money – and could even end up costing you far more in the long run if the car has poor reliability and doesn’t keep its value. It’s not to say you shouldn’t seek out enhancements and gadgets to improve your car. As long as you can afford them they may even save you money (no more backing into other vehicles!).

However, first you need to consider the total cost of buying your new car.

Here are our top five questions to ask yourself before committing.

1. Will the car keep its value?

As soon as your new car leaves the garage, it’s value drops. How much depends on the make and model, but it’s typically between 15 and 35% in the first year. This difference between the car’s value when you buy it and you sell it is known as depreciation.

If you choose a car with a smaller depreciation rate, it’ll save you far more money over the years than fuel economy and a lower tax rate.

2. Is the car reliable?

If you’re often breaking down, costs quickly rack up – as can the stress. To get a sense of whether the car you are looking at is reliable, check the reviews online and in magazines.

3. How much will it cost to insure the car?

There can be a big difference in the price of your insurance premium based on the car you buy. You’ll be able to get a rough quote from different providers based on the makes and models you are considering.

4. What tax bracket is the car in?

Big changes are being introduced in April 2016, but if you buy a new car before then the current Vehicle Excise Duty rules will apply. If you buy one of the most economical models you could end up paying no tax for as long as you own the car.

5. How much will fuel cost?

Not only does miles per gallon come into play here, but also the choice between petrol and diesel.

A diesel engine might be better if you drive on motorways a lot and cover a lot of miles. If journeys are shorter and local, petrol could be the better bet.

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