The world is in the midst of a global economic downturn, so I did the sensible thing - I went out and bought a brand new car. Actually that's a lie - I did it via the Internet and managed to save 25% in the process. Take that, bankers!
I'm not the extravagant type. I'm actually quite frugal when the mood takes me. I've tightened my belt and battened down the financial hatches (I'd rather wash my lunch down with 'free' water from the office water cooler than buy a can of fizzy pop) so why did I wait for the recession to spend thousands on a metal box on wheels?
The simple answer is that I found a deal I couldn't turn down. A quarter off a packet of biscuits is a tempting offer, but it's damn near irresistible when it's a brand new Ford Focus Ecoboost.
Normally, this sort of deal would only present itself if it involved robbery at gunpoint or a heinous mistake by a hapless intern. However in this case, I got it simply by capitalising on the misfortune of the car manufacturers, who are having terrible trouble selling cars at full price. New car registrations dropped by nearly 11% across Europe in September, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), and the story is just as bleak in the US, where Suzuki, unprofitable for so long in that region, has now given up entirely on its car business.
It's a bleak outlook for just about every company that builds cars, but their misfortune is our gain, and there are several ways to take advantage. The first is simply to walk into a dealership, stand proudly in the centre of the room and demand money off. They will usually oblige. According to Auto Trader, British motorists haggle an average of around ￡1,000 off the advertised price. Ladies, take a man with you, as they typically manage to wrangle a bigger discount than yourselves the fairer sex.
Another, more fruitful, method is to take advantage of brokers such as Drive The Deal or the editorial-oriented Recombu. Sites such as these can negotiate huge discounts off new cars, with some offering over a quarter off the advertised price of new models.
Paying for a new car, regardless of its level of discount, can be a daunting prospect, but in my experience all these deals are available with little or no deposit, the ability to pay in instalments and the option to swap your car for a newer, fancier model when you get bored. Buying second hand on the private market often requires a huge cash outlay, but buying new can get you on the ladder of ownership with more manageable sums.
The issue of depreciation is always going to be an issue - new cars always lose a chunk of their value the minute you put pen to paper - but you can minimise the hit on your wallet if you secure a big enough discount in the first place. You'll also spend less on running costs. New cars use far less fuel than their older counterparts, are less prone to breaking down and require no MOT for three years after first registration. You can even save the planet and some extra cash by choosing a super-efficient diesel or hybrid model, which are exempt from the London congestion charge.
Prior to this, I'd never bought a brand new car in my life and never imagined doing so in a time when money is as hard to come by as unicorn dung, but the motoring industry is changing. The manufacturers' misfortune is now the working man's gain and it's time we took advantage.
Rory Reid, Editor http://recombu.com/cars/Suggest a correction