Are you currently in the market for a new or used car? Have you had experiences in the past that make the idea of walking into a dealership feel daunting?
Making the right choice on a car can be a hard thing to do but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Shopping for a car can be fun and exciting if you take some time to do research and prepare yourself. Check out these tips that you should use when buying a new or pre-owned vehicle to get you started.
Figure Out How Much You Can Afford
The first step you need to make before even looking at new or used cars is deciding on your budget. Knowing how much money you can actually spend on your vehicle will help you say no to unnecessary but visually appealing option.
Once your budget is set, you will then know if you’re in the market for a new or used car. Set your budget and stick to your budget – you won’t regret it.
Find Out The Car’s Gas Mileage
Unless you are looking into an electric car, do some research on how well your car holds gas and how far you can go on one tank.
If you take freeways most of the time, then check on the car’s highway miles or vice versa if you live in the city and stop frequently. If you are buying an electric car, find nearby charging stations or places you can plug up if you are on the road and start running low.
How Long The Car Lasts
If this is a car that you plan on having for a long time then spend the time beforehand researching other people’s experience with the car and how long it lasted them.
All cars are built differently and some will undoubtedly last longer than others. Of course, if you are looking at pre-owned cars then the life of that car is cut down even shorter. Getting an older car may save you money right away, but you might be paying more out of pocket sooner if you have to replace the car within a year or two.
Common Issues With The Model/Make
Every car goes through models and model years that may have had issues especially if there is a new body style or features that have just arrived on the market.
If it turns out the model year that you wanted has a lot of issues, then consider going either up a few years after all of those issues were worked out or potentially back a few years before the problems started. While most car manufacturers may issue out a recall that will fix known problems, you don’t want to take the chance the previous owner didn’t get it fixed.
Look At The Safety Ratings
Find out if the car that you want is safe to drive. Accidents are a growing problem as there are more cars on the road and more distracted drivers behind the wheel than ever.
While you may not be able to avoid an accident, you can know about the safety ratings of the car that you are planning on buying. Will it alert you if someone is in your blind spot or stop automatically if you are close to rear-ending the car in front of you? Spend some time looking into this beforehand or ask your salesperson.
Does it Have All The Features You Need?
Regardless of where you are in your car buying journey, most of us have an idea of the car features that we want. Take some time to explore what comes with each vehicle to get the automobile you truly desire.
Do you want leather seats or cloth? Automatic start or keyless entry? Most cars are priced based off of the features that they have or don’t have. If you don’t care about having a touch screen radio or reclining seats, then you can save money by buying a less expensive model.
Cost Of Common Repairs To Your Car
Repairs and maintenance on a vehicle are inevitable and important to stay on top of if you want to maintain the life and health of your car.
Find out if your car needs special brakes or can only use synthetic oil. If you are looking into a luxury vehicle, you will often find that just simple maintenance is going to be more costly so you want to check out the average costs of repair near you.
Cost Of Tires
Similar to maintenance and repair costs, your tire health is also equally important to your vehicle health and safety while driving.
There are a few things to consider when researching about your car tires; do you have a front or rear wheel drive or a 4-wheeler? Are you driving a lot and what kind of roads do you drive on(dirt, asphalt, brick etc.)? What kind of weather do you see where you live that could impact the way you have to drive(icy roads or extremely hot and dry)?
Car’s Accident History If Used
While you may be extra careful and attentive to your new car, the last owner/s may have not. Check into the vehicle’s history to see if it’s been in an accident or more than one accident.
Insurance will fix the vehicle but some damage may cause lasting issues that even a body shop can’t replace or repair. Things like flood damage may not be easily visible on the outside so check into a CarFax or other vehicle history report.
Quote The New Cost Of Your Insurance
Even if you are already in a car and paying for insurance, getting another car can drastically change how much you pay for auto insurance from month to month.
Most insurance companies will allow you to quote the cost of adding or replacing a vehicle on your policy. If you are in an older vehicle and are planning on getting a newer model or getting auto insurance for the first time, then your rates can be higher.
Consider Leasing Over Financing
If you are thinking about financing a car but don’t intend on keeping the vehicle for a long time or if you would like to drive a new car every few years then do some research into your options for leasing a vehicle.
Leasing a vehicle isn’t for every buyer and sometimes can require a higher credit score or more money down, but it can provide lower monthly payments and typically have a lot of warranty coverage for the time that you have the vehicle so you aren’t paying for repairs.
Save Up For a Down Payment
A larger or smaller down payment can change your monthly payment drastically and can sometimes even disqualify you from getting a car if you don’t have one ready.
A good rule of thumb is to have around 10-20% of the car’s cost ready for a down payment and sometimes more depending on the cost of the car and how much you want your monthly payments to be. Down payments are also incredibly important if you are not planning on trading in another vehicle or have a lower credit score.
Try To Secure An Auto Loan Beforehand
Getting pre-approved for an auto loan may not only save you money on what you pay overall, but you may also stand a better chance of getting financed in the first place if you don’t have a perfect credit history.
Fill out an online loan application or talk to your personal banker about your options before going to the dealership to see if you can get a better interest rate. Sometimes you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars just by getting pre-approved for an auto loan before you visit the dealer.
Have Your Mechanic Look At It First
While most car dealerships are honest about a vehicle’s service history or accident history, sometimes they can lie.
When you are shopping for a pre-owned car, whether it is from a dealer or a private seller, try and find a local mechanic who can go with you to check the vehicle out for any major issues. There may always be things that can come up that a mechanic can’t see without going under the hood, but it is always safer to bring one with you if possible.
Make Sure To Test Drive
When you are car shopping, it is easy to get caught up in daydreaming about how you think you will feel once you get the car you want.
Test-driving a vehicle beforehand allows you to get a “feel” for the car without signing up for it. Some of the things to look for when test-driving: how does the vehicle brake and accelerate, how comfortable the seats are if you have long commutes and how tight or loose is the handling.
See If Any Warranties Are Available
Regardless of buying a new or pre-owned car, most dealerships will try to sell you a warranty if one doesn’t already come on the vehicle or from the manufacturer. Warranties can cover major issues on your car that would otherwise cost you thousands of dollars.
If you are looking into buying a warranty always read the fine print and double-check the timeframe and stipulations. If you are looking into a pre-owned car, then try searching for certified cars which have to meet certain criteria to be sold.
Look Into GAP Insurance
Different from a warranty or auto insurance, gap insurance will cover any negative equity you might owe if your car is totaled out.
Most new car dealerships will offer some sort of GAP Insurance that you can add in addition to your warranties and your auto insurance may offer it as well. Like auto insurance, GAP insurance may be more money a month but in the event that something did happen, you wouldn’t be out of thousands of dollars paying negative equity on your car.
Check Vehicle’s Service History
Unlike the accidental history, a vehicle’s service history is only a report that shows the services that were done on that vehicle.
If you are buying a used vehicle and the service history shows that the vehicle hasn’t had an oil change in years or the previous owner brought it in every other week for the past few months because the engine light kept coming on then you can take that as a red flag to look for another vehicle.
Look Into Big Yearly Car Sales When Buying New Cars
New cars dealerships can oftentimes have yearly sales where the manufacturer or the dealership give major discounts on inventory or have special offers that can save you more money.
Figure out if any dealerships near you are having one soon and if you can, plan your car buying around that time frame – just know yearly car sales typically don’t apply to used cars. You can see deals happening normally around the summer time or big holidays such as Christmas.
Consider Trading In Another Vehicle Of Yours
If you have another vehicle that you are able to trade in, then consider trading it towards your next vehicle purchase.
Cars can be expensive so anything that you can do to bring down the price of the vehicle will ultimately save you money immediately and in the long run. If you also aren’t planning on having a down payment or can’t afford a large down payment, a trade in can offset having to put down any money at all.
Know Your Credit Score
Whether you have a good or bad credit history, you need to know where you stand prior to shopping for a car. Having a higher or lower credit score may qualify or disqualify you from certain discounts or promotions.
Knowing your credit score also helps you plan and anticipate where your interest rate may be so you can better know what kind of car you can look at. If you have a lower credit score, then you can most likely expect to pay more overall for a new or pre-owned vehicle.
Secure A Cosigner (If You Think You Will Need It)
Like being aware of your credit score prior to starting shopping for your car, if you think that you will need a cosigner, try to find someone who will be willing to cosign for you before you go to the dealership.
If you have less than perfect credit some finance companies and banks will require you to have a cosigner before they are able to approve you for an auto loan. Remember that making and missing your payments will affect your cosigners credit as well so take due diligence to make your payments on time if someone is putting their credit on the line to help you.
Find A Nearby Mechanic Who Can Work On Your Car
If something goes wrong on your car or if you need repair, then you will want to know a mechanic nearby who can fix your car.
Most mechanics can work on a large number of vehicles so you generally shouldn’t have any issues finding a mechanic near you that can repair and maintain your car. If your car is older or you have a rare or uncommon vehicle then you might have to find a specialized mechanic who can provide you services.
Add Anyone Who Might Share Your Car Onto Your Insurance
If you have children who are going to be driving soon or who are already able to drive and they may be driving your car then you should do some research on what it would take to add them to your insurance.
Your current auto insurance costs can skyrocket hundreds of dollars per month by adding a teen driver to your policy. Be careful when quoting adding a teen to your insurance policy as some companies can force add teens to your policy if they have a license and live in your household.
Find Out How Kid-Proof The Car Is
On the other hand, you may have children who won’t be driving any time soon and you want to do some research on vehicles that are good for you if you have smaller children.
Look into how easy it is to clean the seats of the vehicle and make sure it has child safety locks. If your children are a little older they may appreciate being able to watch television or charge their electronics in the backseat. Once you do find a car that matches some of the things that you want, then make sure to bring your children with you to your test drive.
Make a List of What is Important to You When Buying a Car
While it is important to look into the features that you want in a car, it is also important to do some research on what things are overall most important to you when buying a car.
Do you want a faster car or a two-door coupe? Do you have a job that requires you to haul lots of furniture or large things where a truck may be useful? Buy a car that suits your current lifestyle.
Consider Buying Pre-Owned If Instead Of New
You might have the idea that you want to get a brand new car, but if you are trying to save the most money possible then do some research on a pre-owned car.
Pre-owned doesn’t have to mean that the vehicle is old or unattractive and you can find newer cars that had an owner for a few months or less that traded the vehicle in. If you are looking for a more expensive or luxury car but are worried about the monthly costs, then a pre-owned car may be a good alternative.
Think About How Long You Want to Keep The Car After You Buy It
Spending some time thinking about how long you want to keep the car after you buy it will help you make decisions on the kind of car that you want to get.
You can make easier decisions about financing terms, buying new over pre-owned and looking into cars that may last you longer over the years because of their high resale value. Think about how long you may want to have the car and use it.
Think About How You Plan On Using The Car
The ideal car that you may have in mind may not be the most logical car for you to have. Spend some time thinking about how you are going to use your car.
If you have to drive an hour and a half one way to commute or if you carpool or take children to school every morning then a gas guzzling two door car may not be your best option. On the other hand if you if you rarely drive your car or don’t have far to go to commute, then you can look into a vehicle that may have more features or isn’t as great on gas mileage.
Research Resale Value
Most people will own more than one car in their lifetime. Whether you give your car away, sell it or trade it in, all cars have a resale value.
Keep in mind that a car’s resale value can change depending on how well you maintain your car and if you get into any accidents while you have it. A car’s value will depreciate over time and depending on your payment schedule you may at some point end up owing more than what your car is worth.
Look At Other Similar Cars And Compare Prices
Most cars have multiple types and trim levels that you can choose from that typically range from a base model to a top of the line model.
If you are trying to save money then look into the less expensive models that may not have all of the features that you want but are within your price range. You can also look into similar models that may be slightly different but have all of the features that you want, like a Civic instead of an Accord.
Check Out Both Dealers And Individual Sellers In Your Area
Just like restaurants and other businesses have customer ratings and reviews, dealerships have those same ratings as well.
Look at the ratings of the dealerships in your area and avoid dealerships with lots of bad ratings or if too many customers left bad reviews. Don’t also be afraid to look at dealerships that aren’t in your immediate area. Some dealerships outside of larger metroplexes or cities will have better deals on cars saving you more money.
Visit More Than One Dealership
Tying into looking at the ratings of the dealerships, once you find a few dealerships that you are interested in and you check that they have vehicle that you want then next you need to do some shopping.
Visit a few dealerships, speak to more than one salesperson and go on some test drives. More than likely you may find a dealership that you like more or a salesperson who is able to offer you more than another.
Don’t Get Pressured Into Buying a Car
When you are shopping around, don’t feel pressured to buy the car in front of you. Whether the pressure is coming from your salesperson or a friend that you brought along, make sure that you are getting the vehicle that you want and that you decide on.
Getting a vehicle is a monthly and yearly commitment that you are signing up for so make that you are the one who is making the final decision on the vehicle.
Be Upfront With Your Salesperson
Salespeople are just people like the rest of us and a few bad salesmen have given most of the good salesmen a bad rep.
Let your salesperson know your budget and what you are looking for upfront. If they bring a car around that you don’t like then let them know right away instead of taking up time test driving a car you know you won’t buy. Also, let them know that you are shopping around if you are looking into other dealerships as a courtesy.
If You Already Own A Car, See How Much You Owe
If you are trying to get out of your current car or are just bored with it, then take some time to see how much you owe on your current car.
If you have negative equity then you should expect to tack on any additional money you have leftover to your next car. If you have a large amount of negative equity you may even want to consider paying down some of your equity before shopping for a car if you don’t really need it.
Bring a Supportive Friend/Family Member When Car Shopping
Car shopping can be an emotional journey and bringing a friend or family member along who will support and guide you can help you be at ease and they may also save you from making a bad decision.
Have a conversation with the person that you are bringing beforehand and let them know what you are looking for and your budget for spending so that you are both on the same page about what you are shopping for.
Get Together Important Documents
Signing up for a new car is a legal contract so you are going to be asked to show documents to prove who you really are and other pieces of information such as your proof of income and residency.
Try to gather as much information beforehand as possible and get any copies made or request any documents if needed. Don’t lose the car that you really want because you are stuck in financing trying to find an old paystub.
Start Your Research As Soon As Possible
The moment you start thinking about getting another car, whether new or pre-owned, start doing your research.
Car shopping is a big deal so don’t wait until the week before you are going to buy the car to start looking into what kind of car you want to get or how much you can afford on a car. Even if you aren’t very picky about the car you get, get familiar with the process of buying a car, knowing what to expect and how to prepare.
Check Your Eligibility For Discounts
This is one of the discounts that some people miss out on simply because they didn’t check. If you work for a large company or in the automotive industry, there may be a chance that you have access to an employee discount or corporation discount.
Are you part of a large affiliation or social club? See if there any additional perks that you weren’t taking advantage of before. They may not amount to a lot of money off, but any bit can put you in a better decision to get a car.