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With COVID-19 still very much a constant threat in our country, movement has been difficult and very limited. Public transport is risky, with long lines, and the threat of constant exposure and transmission of COVID through strangers sharing space in PUVs is a real threat we have to live with.

While some have opted to bike to and from work, for those who live in far-off places form work or suburbs outside of Metro Manila, the only other safe options is to buy your own vehicle.

The pandemic has truly devastated our economy, and while many people have been forced to sell their cars to preserve cash for more important and basic needs, it can’t be denied that we are now enjoying a buyer’s market now for cars. Now might actually be a good time if you are financially capable of buying a new car of your own, finding the best deals possible.

Here are some tips to consider.

Set a budget

We all live with financial realities so setting a budget will help narrow down our decision-making process to a more realistic level. But at the same time, have a little ‘extra’ because your dream car might just be within reach if you add a few thousand or so more. If you plan to finance the vehicle, secure your bank financing first with a set amount to see if your bank will actually approve your loan. Banks have since become far stricter in these recent times because of the economic downturn. Also, search for your comprehensive insurance provider as it is mandatory for financed cars to have comprehensive insurance coverage. Also, going with in-house bank financing deals offered by the dealership tends to give you higher interest rates. Sourcing your own financing can net you lower interest rates, and thus lower monthly payments. Remember, we got to be smart and conserve cash during these trying times.

Search online first before actually going out

Whether you chose to buy brand new or used, almost all major car brands have set up virtual online dealerships for prospective buyers to peruse. Other popular places to check are online sites like Carousel and the various Facebook Page Groups that advertise selling of cars and car parts.  Searching online also means you see the latest promos and offers from car manufacturers. But don’t search too far from where you are, geographically. Travel restrictions mean you might find a sweet deal but in a location that has restricted access for you, or in a high risk COVID-19 hotspot. Keep that in mind.

Check with banks for repossessed cars

It’s an unfortunate reality, but many people have been forced to give up on their cars and default on their loans. Banks will have a listing of all repossessed ad for-sale real property assets which include cars.

Protect yourself

After you’ve made a shortlist of cars you want to consider buying, gear-up, protect yourself because cars shall and always will be experiential. You can’t buy a car based on specs and price alone. You have to feel it, connect with it and be comfortable with it. Wear comfortable clothes, gloves, face shield, face mask, alcohol, hand sanitizer, wet wipes and a can of Lysol if that makes you more confident. Most dealerships have undergone stringent safety protocols, so if you’re stepping into a car dealership physically, it’s a bit safer, than say, meeting someone at a used car parking lot to look at some used cars. And as always, once you get home, remove all your clothes, leave them under the sun for a while before putting them in the laundry with some bleach, and leave your shoes outside of the house. Take a shower immediately too before any physical contact with family at home.

Test-drive

Admittedly this is risky, but I feel that you as a car buyer should have first-hand experience driving the car, trying it out and seeing for yourself if it fits you, your driving style and your needs. Feel it, test it, relish the experience. If testing a used car, request for a comprehensive service history of when the last PMS was performed, if and when they replaced big ticket items (A/C compressor, alternator, starter) as this will give you an idea of the potential trouble spots you might encounter with your used car. Check the tires too: are they properly inflated, evenly worn and does the car pull to one side. And check the wipers if they are old or have been recently replaced. Old tires and worn wipers are easy to see and replace. If the owner didn’t before to replace them, then I’d generally be wary of what other hidden components were neglected by the owner.

Negotiate

Because it is a buyer’s market, you can stretch the value of what you’re paying by requesting for freebies and extras. If buying brand-new, perhaps you can ask for additional accessories, a free one-year insurance, extended bumper-to-bumper warranty coverage (some dealers offer this independently form the manufacturer) full exterior detailing or paint protection, etc. If you’re buying a used car, perhaps you can request the seller for any of the following extras too such as a new car battery, new tires with four-wheel alignment, a full tune-up / change-oil before the car is turned over to you, or even a full detailing job of both the interior and exterior.

There are many more tips to consider, but we thought to give a short and simple, not to mention useful reminder of things to consider when you head out to check and buy your new car. Goodluck!