New cars with '13' number plates have been on sale for a little over a month now and early indications are they are selling well.
In March, 394,806 13-plate cars were sold, up 5.9% on the figure recorded for March 2012. Of these, a total of 202,249 (51%, or just over half) were powered by petrol, while 187,239 (47%) had diesel engines.
From March 2012 to March 2013, sales of petrol-powered cars rose by 8.7%, but diesel-engine sales rose by only 3.2%. This indicates a slight decline in the popularity of diesel, which now costs more to buy than petrol. However, it's getting cheaper, as explain in Supermarkets announce 2p per litre diesel cut.
What's more March was the 13th month in a row that new-car registrations rose, taking registrations to their highest level since 2010, when the Scrappage Incentive Scheme artificially boosted sales.
The UK's 10 most popular new cars
One encouraging trend for car manufacturers is that sales in 2013 have risen across all segments, with sales of Mini and MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or 'people carriers') models doing notably well.
In the first month of '13' plates, these were the UK's 10 best-selling new cars:
As you can see, Ford takes first and third place with its ever-popular Fiesta and Focus models. Right behind Ford is Vauxhall, claiming second and fifth places with the Corsa and Astra.
It's also interesting that smaller, compact and fuel-efficient cars dominate this top 10. This is probably due to the soaring cost of fuel, with petrol prices rocketing from around £1 a litre five years ago to roughly £1.40 today. Indeed, with drivers cutting down on their mileage and switching to more efficient models, fuel sales have plunged by a fifth (20%) since 2008.
How to get more car for less money
Here are five rules to help you get that new car cheaper:
In this new age of austerity, you'd have to be crazy to pay full price for big purchases. As always, the trick is to play off different dealers and salesmen against each other to drive down the final price.
You'll need to take a few test drives to find the right vehicle, but never rush in by buying a car straight after a spin around the block. Getting the lowest possible price takes time, effort and research, so don't be sweet-talked into 'doing the deal today'.
The very best place to investigate makes, models, prices and discounts is on the internet. However, if you can't be bothered to do this legwork yourself, then umpteen broker websites are waiting to serve you. Three of the best-known firms in this field are Broadspeed, Drivethedeal and Motorpoint.
Grab freebies and extras
Dealers work desperately hard to distract you from demanding discounts. Often, they do this by offering financial incentives such as 'we pay the VAT for you', cashback rebates and interest-free finance. While these freebies are a bonus, don't let them divert you from your core goal, which is to secure the lowest on-the-road price for your chosen vehicle.
In addition, to add more value to your deal, ask for a few optional extras to be thrown in. These free add-ons could include metallic paint, an immobiliser, an extended warranty, a year's Vehicle Excise Duty (VED, or 'road tax') or even a free tank of fuel.
Find your own finance
Sometimes, dealers will offer you discounts, but only if you take their finance package. Alas, research from The AA found that taking dealer finance could cost you up to £2,000 more than finding a low-cost personal loan.
In other words, what the dealer loses on the car, he claws back through expensive finance. So when buying a new car, don't be lured into forecourt finance, because it is much cheaper to dip into your savings or get a table-topping personal loan.
Ignore dealer insurance
Another add-on that boosts dealers' profits is over-priced insurance cover, such as payment protection insurance (PPI), car insurance and breakdown cover. PPI -- widely discredited cover against death, accident, sickness and unemployment -- is probably the worst of the bunch, but other dealer-sold polices generally offer very poor value for money.
Instead of being influenced to buy insurance in the showroom, always search online for top-notch polices.