The secret to buying a new car for less

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Now is the best possible time to buy a new car. The registration plate is changing on 1 September, so manufacturers and dealers will be in a hurry to sell as many cars before then as possible. It means there are some incredible deals to take advantage of - if you know the seven secrets to haggling.

Bargains

Manufacturers are keen to record as many sales as possible before the registration change - to make their figures look healthy. Dealers, meanwhile, don't want to be stuck with cars with old plates - which will become harder to shift when the registration plate changes. It means that you can get thousands of pounds off the cost of a new car.

What Car? operates a 'Target Price' system, where its team records the deals available on each make and model. At the moment it says you can get £14,153 off a BMW Activehybrid 7 SE or £7,208 off a Volvo S80 2.0 D4 SE Lux S/S. You could also save £6,501 on a Mercedes-Benz SLK 250 CDI.

However, in order to secure the best price, you can't just walk in off the street and pay the price on the sticker. It takes some expert haggling. Whatcar.com editor, Jim Holder, said: "The key is to do your research before you set foot in the dealership, and to drive a hard bargain every step of the way. If you know what you want and what you should pay, it's you who should be celebrating harder than the salesman."
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Haggling secrets

The secret of successful haggling lies in following seven golden rules.

1. You need to know what your target price is
One option is to use the What Car? Target Price, which will show you the most that you should be paying for your new car. Your target should therefore be somewhere slightly less than this figure.

2. You need to have your finance in place
If you get a good deal it's sometimes done in return for you taking out financing with the dealership - which can cost you far more overall. Before you go anywhere near the dealership you need to know the cheapest way to finance the deal.

3. Know when to stay quiet
Once you have opened up the haggling process, try not to say too much. When a salesman asks how much you would like to pay per month, always keep quiet. Just ask for the best price possible and shop around at other dealers, so you can compare prices. Otherwise, you could find yourself strong-armed into a deal.

4. Know their tactics
According to What Car? a salesman will also often claim that he has to go away and check a deal with his sales manager. This is normally a ruse to blunt your attempts to negotiate. Ask politely to deal directly with the decision maker.

5. Beware extras
Sometimes the dealers will make more money on add-on sales than for the actual car. So think carefully before committing to things like special paint treatments and GAP insurance.

6. Check the small details
What Car? advises that you need to be careful that the dealer doesn't scrabble back some of your savings elsewhere; insist the car is delivered with a full tank of fuel and car mats, for example.

7. Give as much attention to the trade-in
What Car? says: "Watch that you don't lose some of your hard-earned savings by getting a lower than expected price for your trade-in. Agree a price for your trade-in separately, if possible. Be resolute every step of the way."

If all your efforts fail to yield any kind of a discount, don't forget that you can still walk away and try elsewhere. One option is to contact the What Car? Target Price team, and they'll put you in touch with a dealer who will offer at least the target price quoted by the website, and may be persuaded to drop the price even further.

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The most economical cars to run
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The secret to buying a new car for less

Official mpg: 57.6mpg
True mpg: 45.4mpg

The third generation Seat Leon is the most economical car to run according to the WhatCar? True mpg test.

It's been a good year for the Spanish manufacturer as the Leon also won the Auto Express New Car Award 2013 after years of missing out to sister brands Volkswagon and Skoda.

The 1.2 TSI 105 has the smallest engine of the top six cars in the WhatCar? lineup, so unsurprisingly is the most efficient of the group.

As well as being efficient it's a great family car. You get plenty of cabin space and an impressive boot size of 380 litres - 65 litres more than in a Ford Focus!

The cheapest in the range is the 1.2 S-trim, but even as a starter model you get a decent standard of equipment with things like air-conditioning, Bluetooth, 5" colour multimedia screen and tyre-pressure monitoring included.

You can buy a new Seat Leon 1.2 TSI 105 S 5-door from £15,850.
 

Official mpg: 55.4mpg
True mpg: 42.8mpg

The stylish Mazda 3 is second on the list of the most economical family cars to run. And like the Seat you can get a starter model relatively cheaply, but with a generous helping of the best mod cons.

The entry-level SE models come with alloy wheels, Bluetooth and air-conditioning as standard. Plus, in terms of size, the 3 is almost on par with the Seat Leon.

WhatCar? says it's a fun car to drive and although it misses out on the top spot for fuel economy, it's not far off so worth a look.

The 2.0 Skyactiv-G 120 5-door is available from £16,995.

Official mpg: 54.3mpg
True mpg: 42.5mpg

The Audi A3 was named Car of the Year 2013 by WhatCar?, but only manages third place on its list of the most economical family cars to run.

It's not the cheapest motor, but the A3 offers plenty of space with a boot size of 380 litres on the Sportback. That's perfect for a family with a lot of gear to transport.

WhatCar? says it should definitely make the shortlist if you are looking for a decent sized hatchback.

The Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI 122 5-door can be purchased from £20,200

Official mpg: 52.3mpg
True mpg: 42.1mpg

The Kia Ceed provides an exceptional amount of space (1,318 litres with the seats down) and comfortably transports five adults.

Its large 1.6 engine can almost match the economy of rivals, but WhatCar? says the petrol version of this car is a disappointment compared to the diesel in terms of driver enjoyment.

The Kia Ceed is available in four trim levels. Top level Ceed '4' gets you parallel park assist system (PPAS) which automatically parks your car! But your basic trim '2' isn't exactly rubbish with reverse parking sensors included.

The Kia Ceed '2' 1.6 GDi 133 5-door is available from £16,195 and comes with the Kia seven-year warranty.
 

Official mpg: 51.4mpg
True mpg: 41.5mpg

The new A-Class looks pretty great with its sharp exterior and smart cabin, and the A180 has attracted high praise from the likes of Top Gear magazine who claim it's enough to rival the BMW1-Series and the Audi A3.

But WhatCar? says that even though safety and equipment levels are up there with the best (you get alloy wheels, Bluetooth and air-conditioning as standard with every model) it's a disappointment to drive.

If you want to be the judge, the A180 is the cheapest Benz you can buy. You can get the A180 BlueEfficiency 122 five-door from £20,370.

Official mpg: 53.3mpg
True mpg: 40.6mpg

Last but not least is the Skoda Octavia.

It's not the most stylish motor of the lineup but WhatCar? reports that the petrol engines are smooth and quiet, while the cabin is a comfortable and spacious place to sit - six-foot adults can sit comfoirtably behind similar-sized adults at the front with leg-room to spare!

If you fancy it the 1.4 TSI 140 is available from £18,390.
 

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