With the new registration plates hitting the forecourts, thousands of people who have been desperately coaxing their car off the drive for months are ready to bite the bullet and buy. However, the experts warn that when you hit the dealerships, there are seven deadly sins that could leave you seriously regretting your choice.
So what are these sins, and how can you avoid them?
A report from Nationwide has identified seven costly mistakes.
1. Ignoring reliabilityIt's unlikely to get your pulse racing at the dealership, but when you're sitting by the side of the M25 waiting for your third tow in a month it will suddenly seem much more important. What Car's annual reliability survey again put the Japanese brands at the top of the pile, with Honda, Toyota, Lexus and Suzuki taking the top spots.
2. Failing to consider the resale valueAll new cars will depreciate the moment you drive them home, but some brands are worse than others for this. Motors.co.uk has a list of those that hold their value best, which is topped by the BMW 1 Series, followed by the Ford Focus, Fiat 500, BMW 5 Series, Audi A3, Vauxhall Corsa, and Ford Ka. However, it's worth researching the used car sites for any model you are considering.
3. Choosing a gas guzzlerAll cars are more efficient than the older models used to be, but some will save you a small fortune - both at the pump and on tax. Nationwide explains: "Car tax is based on CO2 emissions; the lower the emissions, the lower the tax. 'Band A' cars that produce up to 100 g/km of CO2 pay no tax at all and we're not just talking about niche electric cars here; there are over 200 cars to choose from. So when you are going through those glossy car brochures, look out for their emission levels."
4. Forgetting safetyIts worth thinking about safety features, which will ideally help protect you from having a crash in the first place, and will reduce the damage if the worst comes to the worst. Euro NCAP perform crash tests on new cars and their dummy occupants to help consumers choose a safe car. Its list of the safest new cars includes the Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Cruze, BMW 5 Series, Vauxhall Astra and Lexus CT. However, it's worth checking the rating of any car you are looking at.
5. Neglecting insuranceA cost to look out for when buying a car – and one that can easily be forgotten – is the insurance. Generally speaking, affordable small cars with modest engines and cheap parts have the lowest premiums. Recent research from uSwitch fund that the cheapest car to insure was the Chevrolet Spark, followed by the Citroen C1, Fiat Panda, Vauxhall Corsa and the Volkswagen Fox and Up. However, before you buy, check out price comparison websites.
6. Borrowing without thinkingIdeally you'll only buy what you can afford, but with cars costing thousands this is not always feasible. So if you're going to borrow money to buy your dream car, do the sums before accepting a loan offer. Many people will take a personal loan from their bank account provider, but for some this could be a costly mistake.
Nationwide has done some sample sums. Britain's favourite car – the Ford Fiesta – starts at around £10,000. If you were to borrow this amount from one of the big banks over five years, you may be charged as much as 9.9%, and it would cost a total of £12,727.80. Compare that to a 6.3% loan from Nationwide, which would cost £11,634.60 - well over £1,000 less. Of course Nationwide isn't the only loan company around, and it pays to do your own comparisons, but clearly there are savings to be made.