NEW CAR BARGAIN: Toyota's entry-level Corollas are cheaper today than they were in 1995 - two decades ago.
NEW CAR BARGAIN: Toyota's entry-level Corollas are cheaper today than they were in 1995 - two decades ago.

Want a new car? Now's the time to buy

THERE'S no better time to buy a new car than right now.

No, this is not some clichéd car dealer talk to have you opening your wallet, but something that's become increasingly obvious as new car prices tumble and equipment levels, safety gear, fuel economy, reliability and warranties have never been better.

Let's take the Toyota Corolla for instance, a car that has been at or near the top of Australian sales charts for decades.

In 1995 - 20 years ago - the cheapest Corolla you could buy was the 1.6-litre manual CSi at $22,570 before on roads. And equipment levels? No air-conditioning, no CD player and not an airbag to be found.

Two decades on, the base Corolla hatch is $19,490 before on roads, or $20,740 for the four-door sedan version.

As for equipment, the 2015 Corolla 1.8 SX costs nearly exactly the same today as the Corolla CSi did in 1995, but you now enjoy a 6-inch multimedia screen, reversing camera, seven airbags, Bluetooth connectivity and 16-inch alloy wheels.  There are also inclusions we now take for granted, such as traction control and, of course, air conditioning.

And It's not just sensible family cars that looks far better value today either.

Take the world's favourite sports car, the Mazda MX-5, which arrives as an all-new fourth generation model in Australia next month for $31,990.

Incredibly, that represents a mere $2000 increase over the first generation MX-5's 1989 Australian launch price of $29,990.

Using the RBA's inflation calculator, that 1989 price is the equivalent of just under $60,000 in today's money.

CHEAP THRILLS: The 2015 Mazda MX-5 will cost about the same as the first variant sold in Australia in 1989.
CHEAP THRILLS: The 2015 Mazda MX-5 will cost about the same as the first variant sold in Australia in 1989.

So what has gone on?

Factors such as mass global production, cheaper labour, a strong Australian dollar and import tariff falls have played their part (not least our recent free trade agreement with Japan), but above all it's been good old fashioned competition.

"The Korean brands (Hyundai and Kia) have been instrumental and everyone else has had to sharpen their pencil," said expert commentator Barry Green, from RACQ.

"The Japanese and Australian manufacturers in particular had to come out with more added value and with over 50 passenger car brands in Australia now, the competition is fierce and the consumer is the winner.

"If we look at the cheapest cars on sale in Australia, it is incredible the level of safety features, equipment and technology involved for not much money at all.

Holden's Barina Spark, Mitsubishi's Mirage and Suzuki's Celerio are all under $13,000.

WELL EQUIPPED: Sub-$13,000 Suzuki Celerio has more safety gear and standard kit than luxury cars of 20 years ago.
WELL EQUIPPED: Sub-$13,000 Suzuki Celerio has more safety gear and standard kit than luxury cars of 20 years ago.

Each brings numerous airbags, MP3 and Bluetooth, air conditioning and phenomenal fuel economy.

"There really has never been a better time to buy new," Barry Green continued.

"There are no obvious risks really, with warranties never having been longer, capped price servicing, more equipment and more safety. Just make sure you put your needs before your wants."

An inevitable negative to all the good news is used car prices falling in line with new models, so don't expect as much as you used to when trading in your old car.

Beyond that concern, it could be time to go shopping as we may never have it so good again.


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