By Samuel Smith
Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2021
A lot changed during 2020 including our car-buying habits, but recent research shows a surprising increase in demand.
Australians are now buying more new cars than they have in years, show statistics published by The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries late last month.
Despite taking a dive earlier in 2020, November sales figures for new vehicles in Australia are higher than they have been in more than 2-and-a-half years.
Studies by The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries show November 2020 recorded 95,205 sales compared to 84,708 in 2019. That’s an increase of 10,497, or 12.4%.
Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, welcomed the increase.
“Australian new vehicle sales have seen 31 months of straight decline. This has been caused by a number of well-recognised factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and environmental and financial issues,” he said.
“With the Australian economy showing improvement, it’s good news to see new vehicle sales trending in a more positive direction.”
While overall sales are up, there have been some interesting changes when it comes to the type of cars we’re buying.
The latest sales statistics show we’re now swapping passenger vehicles (down 10.1% from November 2019) for light commercial vehicles (up 11.5%) and, interestingly, SUVs, which currently claim 52.5% of the market.
While budget-conscious buying could explain the increased interest in cheaper, light vehicles, what about the head-scratchingly high demand for SUVs?
Mr Weber believes the demand may have something to do with travel restrictions.
“We believe that, given our inability to travel internationally, many Australians [who are still earning regular wages] are choosing to purchase a new vehicle and holiday at home this year – and we fully expect to see a notable increase in family driving trips over the Christmas season,” he said.
The used-car market
COVID-19 has changed the used-car market drastically with prices increasing up to 25% for popular models, according to data from carsales.com.au
Managing Director of carsales.com.au, Ajay Bhatia, said the used-car price hike could be caused by people buying more consumer products in place of travel as well as a desire to avoid public transport and a COVID-19 induced slowdown in manufacturing.
According to Mr Bhatia, the increase is unprecedented and there’s no sign of when prices will drop.
“This situation won’t be solved within the next month; this is here for many months for sure and whether it stays for a year, or 2 years, is the question,” he said.
“If you bought a car in the past 6-12 months, then there’s a good likelihood that it’s worth more than what you bought it for. And I never thought I’d say that for cars, because cars are known as depreciating assets.”
What to look out for
With used prices at an all-time high and an increase in demand for new vehicles, it’s more important than ever to ensure you’re not being taken for a ride.
If you’re looking to buy a car in the near future, these tips will help keep you ahead of the game.
1. Check ANCAP and Used Car Safety Ratings
ANCAP safety ratings are published for a range of new passenger, sports utility and light commercial vehicles entering the Australian and New Zealand markets. ANCAP gives new cars a star-rating, from 0-5. This indicates the level of safety a vehicle provides for occupants, pedestrians and cyclists in the event of a crash.
ANCAP puts new cars through their paces with a range of complex tests. Vehicles are assessed in 4 key areas: Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Vulnerable Road User Protection and Safety Assist.
If you’re buying a used car, check its Used Car Safety Rating rather than its ANCAP safety rating. This is important as features that were once considered the ultimate in safety may have now been superseded. ANCAP safety ratings remain static and are based on technology from the year they were issued. Used Car Safety Ratings, on the other hand, take the ageing process into account.
2. Research recalls
If you’ve looking to purchase a used car, it’s important to do your research beforehand to make sure it hasn’t been recalled. Your one-stop shop for recall information is the Product Safety Australia website (published by the ACCC). Check to see if your car’s VIN (vehicle identification number) is listed on the recall page.
A VIN is a unique 17-character serial number – think of it as your car’s ID. You can find it either under the bonnet, at the bottom of the windscreen on the passenger side, or on the inside of the driver’s door.
3. Pay close attention to warranties
Buying through a dealership can be intimidating, but in most cases, it means you can get a warranty. That being said, it’s important to read the fine print of any warranty you’re given, so you know exactly what it covers and how long it lasts.
If you buy from a dealer, you’ll be protected by the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act. Under this act, dealers need to guarantee their vehicles are free from financial interest. The act also requires that all cars sold are road-worthy. If a car’s been written off previously, the dealer needs to inform you.
4. Check the paperwork
To really know a car’s history, you’ll need to obtain its log book. A well-updated log book will tell you how often a vehicle has been serviced and what mechanical repairs have been carried out on it throughout its life – essential information for any new owner.
Make sure you also check the Personal Property Securities Register before buying a second-hand vehicle. This will tell you if a car has any money owing on it and may save you from buying one that’s been repossessed.
Finally, make sure you obtain the vehicle’s VIN and engine number and make sure they match up with those on its registration papers. Any dealer or private seller should be happy for you to take the car to a mechanic for a check over pre-purchase.
5. Get a vehicle inspection
RAA’s vehicle inspection service can do pre-purchase inspections of the interior and exterior of any car you’re looking to buy.
RAA offers 4 types of vehicle inspection: pre-purchase inspections, warranty inspections, owner inspections and specialty inspections.
RAA members save 15% on vehicle inspections, plus we offer our members free headlight aiming checks.