Samantha Stevens, Tarmac Rally Champion, Shares Her Car Buying/Selling Tips

Samantha Stevens is a motoring journalist, driver trainer and national tarmac rally champion who has forgotten more about cars than most of us will ever know. (Actually, she’s so whip-smart we doubt she forgets much of anything.) Last week, we caught up with Samantha during a Gumtree event about online car sales. Here are some of her tips for breaking into the new car market (and staying there)…

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“For most people, the second biggest, and fastest depreciating investment they’ll make in their life is a new car,” Stevens explained to Lifehacker. “There are cars to stay away from, times of the year when it’s better to buy and various tricks you can utilise to stay in the [new car] market once you get there.”

Here are a few of Samantha’s buying and selling tips.


Wait for a model refresh

“It’s important to purchase a new car near the beginning of its lifecycle: if the car model gets a facelift soon after you bought it this will take an extra whack off its value; even within that crucial three-year period.”

Best time to buy?

“The optimum time to buy a new car is end of financial year. However, you can also find good deals at the end of the calendar year because the dealerships are trying to get rid of stock so the sales are sometimes better. Also keep an eye out for end of the month sales: dealers might not have sold everything and are desperate to move them out which can translate to a really good deal.”

Consider restoring an old car

“If you want to try and work your way up into the new car market from scratch, the only way to guarantee success would be to get a classic car and restore it. Modern cars just lose too much of their value. With a bit of work, a rundown car that’s been sitting in someone’s back shed for decades can turn into a very valuable asset.”

Avoid popular fleet models

“Cars that are very popular with fleets are best avoided if you’re looking to resell at a later date. Even though these cars tend to be reliable — which is why fleets use them, they’re going to be prolific in the market. Companies buy a lot of these cars so they tend to depreciate faster. Unfortunately, this did contribute to the death of the big Aussie six.”

Sell early to maximise profits

“The thing with turning over new cars is that your depreciation is maximum in the first three years; this is when they take their biggest hit. So if you want to stay in the new car market, you definitely need to turn it over within one to two years. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to buy back into that new car market. Once three years have passed it’s basically fallen off a cliff. If you sell within the first three years, the car is still current and you’ll have more money up your sleeve to step up into a newer car.”


Do your research

“When it comes time to sell your new car, research is key. Look at where your car model is selling well and list it where it’s going to get the highest price for you.”

Keep records

“The history of the car is very important when it comes time to sell. It pays to keep a log book, keep all your receipts from your mechanics and keep all your records up to date. People neglect their log books all the time but the great thing about this digital era is that if you’ve gone to the same dealer or same mechanic to service it they can prove that the car has been serviced and that’s a really good thing.”

Be creative

“Above all else, it’s important to be honest in your car listing, but you can also have a bit of fun and appeal to the buyer’s sense of humour. There was a guy who sold a Subaru Brumby and he basically made a very funny listing, like, he said the bumper bar was made by Thor and weird stuff like that. He ended up getting massive money for this awful old car and something like 300,000 hits for his listing.”

Spruce up before selling

“Spend $150 to get your car detailed prior to selling; you’ll be amazed at the difference. The car just looks so much better which really helps its perceived value. So going to a decent detailer really pays dividends. It can also help to put the buyer’s mind at ease if you get a mechanical assessment. Again, this wont cost you an arm and a leg but it really gives people confidence that the car is good and they’ll therefore be willing to spend more money on it.”

Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


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