Savvy Shopper: small car sales are soaring – here’s what to buy

By Brittany Lazarus |

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Car sales have increased during the COVID pandemic as people are diverting away from public transport to driving and families are looking to purchase a second vehicle.

But new research has found that rather than spending up big on a new vehicle, Australians are tightening their belts and opting for cheaper purchases like second-hand cars.

According to Carsales boss Cameron McIntyre, government rules on social distancing has driven more traffic onto the group’s website, with inquiries up 40 per cent when compared to the same time last year. Mr McIntyre also said that 28.9 per cent more Australians are looking to buy.

The study found that those that already own cars are less likely to return to public transport, with 35% more likely to use their car and 19% that will definitely use their car over other transport options.

“What we are seeing in these conditions, people are having to move more and more online (to conduct) transactions. What we’re seeing through our consumer research is that more and more people are telling us that online is a much more important channel now for them to research cars that they’re looking to purchase,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“And I don’t see that trend changing over time either.”

Research from Dynata’s Global Automotive Trends report shows that there has only been a small dip in car buying intentions around Australia. The survey showed that 23 per cent of buyers aged under 25 were looking for a cheaper purchase, and this was followed by 16 per cent of Baby Boomers.

The most recent sales figures released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries showed purchases of budget brands are climbing. And Carsales also found that people are looking for smaller, more affordable city cars that are cheap to run and are manoeuvrable around the city.

Chinese brand MG have been particularly strong, and the company has reported a sales increase of more than 50 per cent so far this year. The small MG sells for less than $17,000 drive-away undercutting reputable brands such as the award-winning Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris.

While the MG ZS and HS SUVs offer cut-price alternatives to popular models such as the Mazda CX-3 and Toyota RAV4.

Shoppers are also looking at other mainstream brands like the South Korean brand Kia, with the small Kia Cerato more popular than the Mazda3 which in 2011 and 2012 was the country’s most popular new car.

Together Australia spoke to Carsales editor-in-chief and self-proclaimed ‘petrol hedonist’, Mike Sinclair, who believes the ideal city car is not just a cheap, small car.

His top three cars are below:

Top 3 City Cars

Kia Picanto Fiat 500 Nissan Leaf
Drive away from $17,690 $23,017 $53,190
City driving features • Apple and Android connectivity
• Rearview camera
• Rear parking sensors
• Autonomous emergency braking system
• Apple and Android connectivity
• Rear parking sensors
• 100% electric motor
• Apple and Android connectivity
• Rearview camera
• Front and rear parking sensors
• Intelligent: emergency braking, cruise control, and lane intervention
Warranty 7 years, unlimited kms 3 years, 150,000 kms 5 years, unlimited kms
ANCAP Safety Rating 4 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars

Honorable Mentions:

Looking at the recent data, Mr. Sinclair believes the rise in people seeking a new car is a reengagement with personal transport and said: “This is not just a flash in the pan, it is becoming more and more important”.

His personal pick would be the Skoda Fabia (drive away $17,990) to run around the city as it is safe (5 stars) , has a long warranty (5 years), and features the latest connectivity technology as well as a ‘City Emergency Brake’ for those hazy early mornings and quick-moving pedestrians you might not see in time.

If you are considering how the car purchase you make now will impact the planet, he also highlights that cars like the Nissan Leaf or Hyundai Kona (drive away $26,490) mark the move away from petrol cars. “These cars have been proven to reduce the carbon footprint as they charge with solar power or electricity,” he said.

Cities like Copenhagen, Paris, Madrid, Athens have put plans in place to phase out all diesel cars and Norway will completely phase out conventional cars by 2025, followed by France and the United Kingdom before 2050. Perhaps seek a non-conventional car if you would like to get ahead of the curve.

How to get the best deal on your insurance:

  • Compare prices and policies. Comparison is not the thief of joy when it comes to finding the best deal on your car insurance. Compare the Market is an excellent tool for comparing across insurance companies rather than just comparing policies within the one company.
  • Consider your extras. Remove any that you won’t use. You shouldn’t be getting stung for pet insurance if you don’t have a pet or be paying more for a driver under 25 if you are the sole driver of your car and above that age bracket.
  • Consider your excess amount. What is the most you could comfortably pay? A higher excess will drop your premium but keep in mind that your excess comes out of your own pocket if something goes wrong.
  • Take the time to work out how many kilometers you are actually driving each year. Some policies offer a reduced premium for those who drive less than a certain amount a year. Less time on the road means less time to have an accident.
  • Consider bundling your insurances. If you take out multiple kinds of insurance policies with one provider there is often the opportunity for a discount. Don’t be afraid to ask.

A few quick vehicle finance tips:

FuelCheck App

Offering live updates on fuel prices across New South Wales, ‘NSW FuelCheck’ is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, free to download. Have a look at ‘PetrolSpy’ for a nationwide picture.

Toll Relief

If you have spent roughly $25 a week or more on tolls over the past year, you may be eligible for free 6-month or half-price 12-month vehicle registration. You’ll be notified about your eligibility when you renew your rego online.

Reduced Licence Renewal

If you have had a perfect driver’s license record for the past 5 years, a 50% discount will be applied when you next renew your license.

Green Slip Price Check

Available on the Service NSW website, The Green Slip Price Check compares CTP insurance for the most common vehicle types. Just answer a few simple questions and you’ll get online quotes from all insurers.

Prepay Parking

Always have a look online at Wilsons Parking or Secure Parking before heading into the CBD and parking. There are often discount codes or reduced rates for booking ahead or outside of regular hours.

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