IT’S BEEN a long, hard winter but as the flood waters and gales subside, the first signs of spring are in the air. And for drivers no sign is more eagerly awaited than the March 1 plate change.
Commuters hitting the roads tomorrow will probably see a smattering of “14” registration plates attached to brand new models. The official date for the changeover from the previous 63 plate took place at midnight on Friday, and dealers are expecting a flood of buyers over the coming weeks.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), March is the biggest month of the year for new car sales, accounting for about 18% of the annual total. March 2013 saw almost 395,000 new cars registered, out of an overall total of 2,264,737 — the highest annual registration total since 2007. The figure for this March is expected more than 400,000.
“There is something about the March plate change that entices drivers to hit the forecourt,” said the SMMT. “If you are going to invest in a new car you are going to want to have the latest plate too.”
Many car manufacturers are offering competitive deals to attract buyers. Most of these are based on finance agreements such as a personal contract purchase (PCP). This is where buyers pay a deposit followed by, typically, three years of monthly instalments. At the end of the period, they can either buy the car outright for a prearranged sum, or walk away without the car.
Almost three quarters of new cars are bought using finance from dealers. It’s a convenient way to pay and manufacturers offer additional incentives, such as free roadside assistance, 0% interests and hefty contributions towards a buyer’s deposit. But beware of the small print: some deals come with additional fees such as an acceptance fee, or an option-to-buy fee.
The prices we give in this special supplement are the official deals promoted by the car manufacturer; there may be cheaper ones available from third-party brokers or individual dealers, but they are unlikely to be significantly different.
We have selected our favourite three cars for each category and asked the manufacturers to provide details of their best deal for the top-selling variant of each model. Where a new version of the car is imminent (such as the Fiat 500 or Ford Focus) we have given figures for the existing version.