What to check before you drive your new car from the showroom.
Nothing, but nothing, beats the excitement of waking up in the morning knowing that you are picking up a new car that very day.
You have researched the model carefully, test driven it, haggled over the price, chosen the colour and waited patiently for delivery. Now that the day is here it’s like Christmas morning – you just can’t wait to get down to the dealership, sign on the dotted line and drive away your new pride and joy.
But, like Christmas, if you destroy the box in haste to get to the present within, you will find it much more difficult to send it back if it’s faulty.
Take the brand new 2015 Honda Civic Type R, a big redesign of a classic and the world’s most keenly anticipated hot hatch. Billed as a ‘race car for the road’, the all-new Type R is powered by the most extreme and high-performing Type R engine ever built, and will set new standards in the high-performance front-wheel-drive hatchback segment.
But just because it is an exciting and much-anticipated new car doesn’t mean there are no potential faults or hiccups. There are pitfalls for the unprepared, or those too excited to take the time to carry out a few basic checks first.
Car collection checklist.
The dispassionate eye sees all. A thorough check can take up to an hour to complete, but stick to this checklist and you can leave the dealership forecourt with confidence and pride.
- Bring a friend, preferably someone with experience of buying new cars, or someone in the trade. This objective set of eyes may spot things your overexcited mood may miss or skate over;
- If it is dark or wet, you won’t spot bodywork problems. So during winter, or in bad weather, arrange an inspection indoors and in good light;
- Even new cars can be involved in accidents – after all it has been on and off at least one car transporter. Bizarrely a dealer only has to disclose this information if asked, so walk around the car carefully and check all body panels, windows and corners;
- Check the interior. Check the fabrics, the dash, loose handles, switches, etc. Look for signs of water ingress in passenger area and boot. Damp carpets could indicate improperly fitted seals;
- Trying to find the lights when driving home on the motorway is not a good idea. Ensure that the salesman has thoroughly demonstrated how to operate the car and accessories, for example key functions such as lights, hazard warning switches, car alarm, fuel, boot and bonnet releases and mirror adjusters;
- Paperwork time. It may seem daft, but do check that the vehicle conforms to the specification, options and accessories you ordered, and that they are all present and correct;
- Check all paperwork carefully to ensure no additional items or costs have been added since you agreed the deal, that a pre-delivery inspection (PDI) has been carried out, and the service book is stamped to reflect this;
- Do you have your insurance sorted?
- Does the car have vehicle excise duty (road tax) if it is not exempt?
- Do you have copies of all paperwork?
- Do you have a copy of the warranty?
Right, ready to sign for delivery? Don’t. You have clearly forgotten something. You will, of course, have test driven the model before - but not this particular car - potentially your car.
- Take it out on the road with the salesman.
- Does the car drive in a straight line when you loosen your grip?
- Does it handle like a tank? Does the car pull away and brake easily without any noises or does it sound like an overloaded dump truck?
Once back at the dealership pause. Are you happy? Then just check the last few bits of paperwork:
- Ensure that the new owner’s section of the V5C is filled out correctly, and that you take the relevant sections with you.
- Do get an invoice and sales contract showing that the balance has been paid.
- If you’re opting for a finance package, check the paperwork thoroughly.
- Make sure you have both sets of keys and you’re ready to go.
What to do if there is a problem
Suppose that your careful checklist unearths a problem? What happens next depends on the seriousness of the problem and whether you consider it to be a deal breaker or not.
Basically you have two choices, either accept or reject the car. Remember that the Sale of Goods Act is on your side. If you find a problem with your new car, good dealers will fall over themselves to sort it out.
- The first thing to do is to inform the salesman immediately, discuss the way forward and request that the problems you have identified are rectified. If the problems are substantial, do not sign any paperwork or take the car;
- If you believe the problems can be rectified, then only accept the car if it is clearly stated on the sales invoice what the problems are, when they will be fixed and what costs will be involved. Avoid any chance of disputed authority, ensure that the senior dealership manager signs this agreed work;
- Don’t be inconvenienced. If you still intend to buy the car, ensure that you have a decent loan car while the work is carried out;
- Negotiate a settlement. If the dealership wants the sale, and they are very close to it, you should be able to secure compensation in the form of an additional discount or extra incentives. Look at these carefully and decide whether they are fair compensation.
- Keep all records and paperwork. You will need them later on.
- If you feel that the car’s faults are too serious, then you have the right to reject the car. Do this formally, in writing, as soon as possible. Explain the problem in full. Be reasonable, but be firm and clear about what you want done to resolve the problem.
- If a serious fault occurs, you have two weeks to reject the car and either ask for a replacement or your money back. You can do this if the car is not of ‘satisfactory quality’.
It may seem like a lot of fuss, but a new car is a major outlay. Potentially it could involve you in many hours’ work (and expense) if excitement and anticipation win out over a cool, cautious and meticulous pre-sale checklist.