For most Americans, buying a car is one of the largest investments that they will ever make in their entire lives. That being said, it can be an intimidating task to say the least. There are seemingly endless dealerships, websites, and resources out there for us to sift through. Where to look and what to look for can be very overwhelming. Do you need a down payment? How much downpayment do you need? Do you need a trade in? Thankfully, the manufacturers are actually a very good place to start looking up all this information.
They are more than happy to compare their products to their competitors’ in order to show you how they are better. But there are also dozens of websites that are dedicated to bringing you all the information that you need in order to make a good decision. You need to take the time to decide what you want and what you need. For example: do you really need something like a Mustang? If you have kids or live somewhere where the roads can get icy and dangerous, it may not be the best choice for you. You may want one, but you may regret the decision to buy the car over time.
The most important things that you can have when you go out to buy a car is information. If you are armed with all the information you need, your car buying experience will be much less stressful, and easier than just waltzing into a dealership. It won’t take much time, but it will make a world of difference.
20 Wants Vs Needs
We all want a fast car. We all want a luxurious car. But what do you want, and what do you actually need? It is easy to overstretch your budget when you're not keeping in mind what you need. It’s always fun to check the options box on the list of extras for your car. How many seats do you need? What kind of power does that car need to have? How much cargo room? Is the car dog friendly or kid friendly? Make sure you think about all of this before going to the dealership. It’ll help keep the car buying process simple, and may cut out some unnecessary expenses.
19 New Car May Not Be Necessary
When getting ready to buy a car, take a good look at what your needs are. Is a new car really part of that? Manufacturers make it very appealing to buy their new cars. They offer lots of incentives and perks to buying new.
Things like low financing rates, cash rebates and even free maintenance are what they use to bring customers into the dealerships.
But before you take a look at those new cars, spend a minute looking at pre owned certified cars. A lot of times, the cars are nearly new, with a better warranty, and still qualify for great financing offers.
18 Do Research To Narrow Options
There are a lot of things that you need to know about the car you’re going to buy. How it performs in a crash, what kind of fuel economy it gets, and how reliable it is. But have you thought about looking up the reviews about the dealership itself? How have they taken care of their customers over the years? Do you know anybody who has bought from them before? Would they buy from them again? Do they have a recommendation for a salesman? Doing a lot of research by just asking around can help with a lot of the legwork that can go into looking for a new car. Buying a car is stressful enough, but knowing that where you’re going to buy the car has a good reputation can help put you at ease and help avoid unnecessary trips.
17 Utilize The Internet To Find Detailed Car Reviews
There are literally hundreds of car buying guides available on the internet. Everybody from Car and Driver to the New York Times have resources to help you find the cars that best fit your needs.
If customers are looking for the most cut and dry reviews about cars, there isn’t any better source than Consumer Reports.
They don’t have advertisers, nor do they they use test cars from the manufacturers. They actually go out and buy from multiple different dealerships to make sure that they are getting a car at random. This is how they insure that their testing is as accurate as possible. Most of their reviews are available online and they have an excellent YouTube page with dozens of video reviews.
16 Don't Make Hasty Decisions Under Pressure
Don’t get too caught up in the buying process. Car shopping can be a really exciting process. You’re going to look at a lot of cars that have a lot of different features that are going to be very exciting. It is more than likely you’re going to be making a big step from your old car into a new one. It’s ok to take a day or two to absorb the information and the options that you’ve obtained. For most buyers, a car will be the second largest investment of their lives. So take a deep breath, relax, and really take your time thinking about your car choice.
15 Pre-Financing Options
More than likely, the dealership is going to want you to finance directly through them. If you’re looking at a new car that’ll most likely be the best place for you to finance. Many manufacturers offer rates as low as 0% APR on new cars. Take advantage of that if it’s available. If you’re looking at preowned cars, it’d be a good idea to go to your bank or credit union to see what they have to offer. Most dealerships have a network of banking relationships to get the best financing for their customers. However, your bank may not be part of that network and may offer something better. It doesn’t hurt to have options.
14 Test Drive The Car First
Always test drive a car! Especially if you’re buying a used car. I’m sure the salesman, especially if they’re a good one, will give you an entire speech that’ll feel like a fully choreographed production about how they put their cars through the strictest quality test. I’m not saying they don’t, but some things slip through the inspections.
Don’t be afraid to manhandle the car you’re testing a little.
Drive it down a rough road, brake harder than you normally do, and accelerate faster than you normally do. Put it through a thorough test drive to make sure any problems will expose themselves.
13 Extended Warranties
So you’ve finally decided on what car you’re going to buy. You go into the financing office and sit down. The finance guy goes over all the paperwork and insurance, then he starts talking about extended warranties. Before you jump on the warranty bandwagon, think about the car you’re buying. Have you done your research? Is it going to be reliable? Does it have a good reputation for holding up as it gets older? If you’re getting something along the lines of a Land Rover or a Fiat, it may be a good idea to look into a warranty. But if you’re getting something like a Lexus or Honda, you may want to save your money.
12 Set A Budget
Know what you can afford! Take a good long look at your budget and figure out what you can afford. Really try to stick within, or below, your budget. Who knows what the future may bring. Today you can probably easily afford the car. But life happens quickly. You may have to take a pay cut at some point, or even worse, lose your job altogether. Hopefully none of that ever happens. But you should still think about the worst case possibilities when looking at your budget. And don’t spend all your savings on a down payment. If you have to do that in order to afford a car, you really can’t afford it yet.
11 Shop Around
Buying a car is an important decision to make. You’ll want to make sure that you’ve looked at all of your options before pulling the trigger. Don’t be afraid to shop around different dealerships before buying.
It may be a good idea to drive a Hyundai before buying a Toyota, or vice a versa.
Of course, your salesman won’t want you to do that. His chances of selling you a car go down dramatically if he doesn’t sell to you on the same day. But who knows, he may not have the car of your dreams. It could be sitting on another car lot on the other side of town.
10 Don't Be Afraid To Negotiate
Buying a car can be intimidating. It is absolutely understandable if you feel out of place or even uncomfortable during the entire process. When it comes down to price, if you think they want too much money! Tell your salesman that. But make sure you’re being reasonable. It is highly unlikely that your dealership has thousands of dollars in markup in the car. Especially if it’s a new car. Again, it comes down to doing your research. There are websites that keep track of how much people are paying for new and used cars. If you know what the car is reasonably with, that’s another tool in your belt to getting a great deal.
9 Don't Be A Pushover
Your salesman’s job is to sell you a car. Period. I like to think that deep down, most salesmen are good people. But at the end of the day they need you to drive off the lot in one of their cars and they need to make their employer money in order for you to do that. Even the best salesmen have bad months, and can resort to high pressure to help persuade you to buy a car. Don’t let yourself get pressured into buying a car if you aren’t one hundred percent convinced that this is the car for you, and you’re getting the best deal possible.
8 IF It Seems Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is
We are all looking for a great deal. Nobody ever wants to feel like they are overpaying, or worse, being taken advantage of. When shopping for a car, be a conscious shopper. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
It isn’t uncommon for a dealer, or even a private seller to “forget” disclosing certain things.
Whether it’s upcoming maintenance and repairs that need to be done, or even accidents in the car’s history. Use your best judgement when shopping. If the deal feels a little off, don’t be afraid to walk away.
7 Check Insurance
Not only do you need to be conscious of what your payment is going to be, but you need to keep insurance in mind too. Particularly for younger buyers, insurance can be a big deciding factor when buying a car. Even if you’re buying something that you don’t think the insurance would be very high on can carry hidden costs. For example, according to Allstate, the Fiat 500 has one of the lowest crash test scores in its class. Even though it is one of the slowest, and least expensive cars on the market, it carries a high insurance premium because of its low crash scores.
6 Keep Upkeep In Mind
When shopping for a new car, you of course take into consideration things like horsepower, fuel economy, and resale value. But have you ever thought about how often that car needs to come into the shop for regular upkeep. How often does the transmission need to be serviced? When do the spark plugs need to be replaced? What about the timing belt and water pump? These are all things that you need to take into consideration if you intend on keeping the car for a long time. Also, what are these repairs going to cost? Obviously, something like an Audi A3 is going to be more expensive to upkeep than a Ford Focus.
5 Check Trade-In Value Of Current Car
Your trade in value can be what makes or breaks a deal. Don’t go to a dealership expecting that the dealership will give you retail value for you car. They won’t give you $4,000 for a car that is worth $4500. They have to make money at the end of the day as well. Again, it comes down to doing to research before heading out looking for a car.
Resources like Kelley Blue Book are a valuable source of information for looking up the value of any car.
Spending fifteen or twenty minutes researching your car’s value could be the difference between saving hundreds and maybe even thousands on your trade in.
4 Down Payment
When looking at buying a car, the bigger your down payment the better. A large down payment combined with a fair trade in value is going to be the best thing to help bring that monthly payment down. Keep it well within your budget. A lot of times, special financing rates from the manufacturer’s financial division will pitch payment promotions with a certain amount of down applied to the loan. But you really should put down as much as you possibly can in order to help bring the payments down and get the car paid off quicker. Just don't exhaust all your savings on a down payment, as you may need a cushion for a rainy day.
3 Leasing Options
If you are a person who is constantly trading cars off every two or three years, leasing may be ideal for you. Since you are never actually paying off the loan, and trading in cars with a balance left on the loan, it may be ideal to lease. Leasing is ideal for people who are consistently trading in and out of cars every few years. The perks of leasing are numerous. Since the cars are typically new, they are often under warranty for the entire duration of the lease. The payments are lower, and you get a new car every few years. Not a bad way to go about things.
2 Prepare For Any Situation At The Dealership
It is so important to take your time to really diligently do your research before you even walk onto the car lot. In today’s world there is no excuse for anybody to not know all the nitty gritty details about the cars they are looking for. You should know what other people have bought the cars for, what you trade in is worth, what specials are going on, and even the reputation of the dealership. With all the word of mouth and online resources you should feel totally prepared. You should come prepared with all the ammo you need to make an educated car buying decision.
Once everything is said and done, and you’ve signed on the dotted line, celebrate! Buying a car is a big step for anybody. If you’ve successfully bought a car that means that you’ve taken care of making sure payments are being made and your credit approval means that a bank is willing to loan you thousands of dollars because they trust you. That’s saying a lot considering that more than likely you’ve never met them in person. Even if your credit isn’t great, there are hundreds of banks that are willing to give people second chances in order to help you get a car.
Sources: Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Kelley Blue Book, New York Times, Autotrader