If you're looking to buy a new car, it's best not rush things.
New or used? Manual or automatic? A compact city car or a spacious family car? These are just some of the things you need to think about. And that's before you make your choice from dozens of makes, engine types, design and equipment lines, options and accessories.
The possibilities are virtually endless, but don't forget that certain choices can have a major impact on the overall cost. And that's not all. Another thing to take account of from the outset are the additional running costs.
If you're starting to think there's too much information to take on board, don't worry. We'll set out the main things you should focus on.
New or used
A first big decision is whether to go for a new or a second-hand car. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
With a new vehicle, you can go for something that perfectly meets your requirements, but of course that comes with a certain price tag. If you opt for a used car, you can make savings on the purchase price and potentially on the insurance too, but there is a risk that you will incur higher maintenance costs more often.
If you decide to buy a second-hand car, make sure you know the correct history of the vehicle. Has it been regularly serviced? Has it been damaged and repaired at any stage? And is the number of kilometres on the clock genuine?
Ask for the Car Pass
If you intend to but a second-hand car, check whether it has been clocked by using the Car Pass. This document shows the correct number of kilometres covered by the car, based on the data provided by garages, bodywork repair shops, tyre centres and the vehicle inspection service.
The party selling the second-hand car, whether a private individual or a business, is required by law to provide you with a Car Pass that is not more than two months old. Without a Car Pass, a sale is not valid and you – as the buyer – can demand your money back.
Go to car-pass.be to see whether the vehicle's Car Pass is authentic.
The right fuel
A second big decision concerns the choice of fuel. Usually this would mean petrol, diesel or gas, but now hybrid or electric vehicles have become an option.
Diesel or petrol
Although a diesel car is somewhat more expensive than a petrol car in terms of the purchase price and maintenance costs, the higher cost involved has always been more than offset by the lower price of diesel at the pumps. That was until recently. In the past few years, the traditional excise duty advantage on diesel has been gradually whittled away and is expected to be completely eliminated in the longer term.
For the time being, diesel cars are slightly more economical and durable than petrol cars, but that difference is becoming increasingly smaller on account of the technical advances in petrol engines. It is worth opting for a diesel engine primarily if you tend to travel long distances on the motorway (at least 30,000 kilometres a year according to the VAB).
Petrol or hybrid
If you don't drive so often on the motorway or you travel mainly short distances, you should buy either a petrol or hybrid car. A hybrid vehicle is equipped with a customary combustion engine and an additional electric one. The higher purchase price of a hybrid is offset by considerable fuel savings.
A fully electric car is suitable primarily for shorter distances since the battery has to be regularly recharged. These vehicles are relatively expensive to buy at the moment.
LPG or CNG
Fuel savings can also be made by equipping your petrol car with an additional gas tank. Using gas is far cheaper and better for the environment than petrol or diesel, but the cost of installing a LPG or CNG tank is considerable. The number of filling stations in Belgium offering CNG is still very limited at present.
The cost of a new car is not just limited to the price you pay for it. Always remember that there are a number of additional running costs, including obvious ones relating to fuel, maintenance and tyres, but also other ones in the form of taxes and insurance.
- Vehicle registration tax which is paid once only when the car is registered
- Road tax which is paid each year
The annual road tax is the same throughout Belgium and is calculated on the basis of engine capacity (taxable horsepower). However, vehicle registration tax varies between the regions.
In Wallonia and Brussels, this tax is calculated based on engine capacity (taxable horsepower), the age and C02 emissions of the vehicle. Learn more at the Portal of the Walloon Region (in French).
In Flanders, account is taken primarily of the different environmental characteristics of the vehicle, such as CO2 emissions, the type of fuel used and the European emission standards. Work out your road tax at the Portal of the Flemish Regional Government (in Dutch).
Hopefully you'll never be involved in one, but traffic accidents are regrettably a daily occurrence. It is therefore important that you are properly insured.
Types of insurance and what they cover
- Legally required Third-Party Liability Insurance covers any material or physical damage you cause to others with your vehicle. Remember that, under this compulsory insurance, you are not covered as the driver of the vehicle.
- Therefore, it is advisable to take out Accident Insurance. This insurance offers you and your family financial protection for a range of accidents in the private sphere, such as when you’re at home, on holidays, in traffic, participating in sports or doing DIY work.
- Legal Assistance Insurance helps in recovering your loss from a liable third party and covers any costs involved in legal proceedings. It also covers criminal-law defence costs if, for instance, you are disputing a traffic violation or you have been summoned to appear before a magistrate.
- All Risks Comprehensive Insurance is intended primarily for new or nearly-new second-hand vehicles and covers all damage caused to your car, even if you were responsible for an accident. Only those claim events appearing on a list of exclusions are not covered. You always have to pay a deductible, the size of which you can set within certain limits. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium.
- Partial Comprehensive Insurance covers damage that is not caused by a collision, such as fire, theft, glass damage or weather-related damage.
- Assistance Insurance provides assistance if you go on a trip with your car and run into problems while on the road.
See if you need comprehensive insurance and whether you should take out full or partial cover.
In two minds about which insurance company to use? Find out now why you should insure your car with KBC Insurance.
- Give yourself plenty of time to compare the vehicles and go out and test drive them. Don't be put under pressure to make a quick (ill-considered) decision.
- Compare net prices (after discounts and bonuses have been deducted) and not catalogue prices and option prices.
- Discuss the price and/or extra options. Have a number of proposals drawn up by the different dealers and play them off against each other.
- Only discuss finance after you have reached agreement about the price and options. If you are quickly offered cheap finance, you will probably have less margin to negotiate about the price or the options.
- Always ask your bank for a comparative finance proposal.