What’s more important when buying a car – cost, or safety rating?

David Williams, national motor journalist and road safety award-winner

How long do you spend working out the best deal when, let’s say, you change phone contracts? And how long would you take weighing all the options when you want to find the best mortgage, or finance package for your new car?

New research has thrown up some interesting answers and they’re not what you’d expect. According to BMW Group Financial Services, around three-quarters (73 per cent) of those questioned in a poll admitted taking up to two months to research finance options for their phones, compared with under half (45 per cent) who spent the same amount of time looking for the ‘right’ mortgage.

Men spend slightly longer on car finance search, with almost two thirds (62 per cent) researching for up to two months, compared to 57 per cent of women. But one thing’s for sure; consumers spend a disproportionate length of time trying to achieve savings on smaller spends, compared to large purchases.

Suzanne Gray, General Manager, Group Customer Strategy, BMW Group Financial Services, points out:

“With most of us looking after the pennies and doing what we can to make the pound in our pocket go as far as possible, our findings suggest that we aren’t prioritising the time we spend on research to get the finance options that can work best for us.”

She also says that as a nation now focused on purchasing items as a monthly spend – on phone contracts, gym memberships, mortgages or car finance – consumers should make sure they’re armed with all the facts before signing on the dotted line and committing to additional finance. After all, it all mounts up over time.

The importance of thoroughly researching finance is obvious when looking at purchasing a car, especially as over a third (76 per cent) of new car sales are now made on dealer-sourced finance, according to the Finance and Leasing Association. And with new car sales increasing and wages rising, the figure could increase further.

Suzanne Gray admits that researching finance options for any purchase – large or small – can be daunting and she says providers have an important role to play in making their terms clear and simple, so that customers know exactly what their obligations are.

Her big tip? Seek simplicity. In other words, if you have to dig around to find those all important details then the offer isn’t transparent enough.

Mind you – someone must be doing the research, according to a separate report from OSV – the ‘independent vehicle supply professionals’. Their own recent survey found that overall, 53 per cent of UK consumers would pick a car based on cost rather than its safety rating. And by the time adults in the UK reach between the ages of 25-35 this number increases to 63 per cent and only decreases to 49 per cent by the time adults reach over 65.

It’s just as well that you can no longer buy a ‘dangerous’ new car; they all have to confirm to highly stringent safety standards with high, minimum crash standards built in on the production line. So – on the safety front if not with finance – we’re being saved from ourselves.

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