If your vehicle is up for replacement, remember that it's easy to overlook a couple of simple but important steps to ensure the process doesn't turn from delight to despair.

First, never assume that the new addition to the family is going to fit comfortably into the garage especially if you are planning to stick with the same but previous generation make and model as the one you are now driving.

Second, double-check with the sales staff the exact specification level, particularly when buying a new vehicle.

Both are easy things to overlook, especially if it's a long time since you replaced your car.


Add to that the initial headaches over which particular make and model to choose in the first place, which can wear down some buyers.

What were considered in the past to be small vehicles have definitely upsized themselves over the years. Two good examples are the first Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas available here in the early days of local assembly.

Nowadays, a new Civic is similar in size, or larger, than the early model Accord while the Corolla would have similar dimensions to previous Corona/Camry variants.

As part of the due diligence process, and before signing on that dotted line, take a step back and ensure those easy-to-forget steps have been ticked off.

Distributors of new vehicles and franchise holders have individual websites which enable potential buyers time alone to look carefully at individual vehicle dimensions and specification levels.

Once you have the measurements on a vehicle that may appeal, then it's easy to run the tape measure over the garage to confirm suitability. And don't forget to allow for door mirrors plus the extra room required if a towbar or roof rack is going to be added.

If it's a second-hand vehicle then don't be afraid to physically measure the vehicle yourself or ask the seller to provide those dimensions.

Another check should be just how tailgates open on some SUVs. If they hinge from the side and open outwards you may need to allow for the extra that adds to overall length.

When buying a vehicle new out of the showroom it always pays to recheck with the sales staff what you believe are agreed specification levels such as accessories, trim type, body colour and standard features.

Remember that the vehicle you have examined and driven may not be the one you end up owning. It could be either a demonstration model or one for showroom display only and therefore can be over or under the specs you thought you were signing for. Once a new vehicle is registered it loses value, so asking a dealership to take it back and replace it with something else will no doubt be met with resistance.

Used cars are in some ways easier because what you see is basically what you get.

If looking online and making a call based on pictures only, be very careful and be very persistent when asking about such things as interior trim type and colour, number of safety features and -- if fitted with in-dash navigation (used imports especially) -- a written assurance that it actually works and can be easily updated in New Zealand.

So don't let the excitement of first initial impressions and emotions get in the way of doing those extra checks.

It would be most embarrassing to get the new vehicle home to find the garage will need to be extended to accommodate it.