Tips for Buying a New Car

Buying a new car is usually an exciting moment, but it’s also very stressful. Will I get what I want? Will the dealer push me into something I don’t want? Will I be there for hours and hours? Will I pay too much? To help make the process more enjoyable, we’ve put together a list of the top things you’ll want to consider before you set foot on an auto dealership lot.

  • Know your bottom line. This includes not only your final sale price but what you can afford to write a check for all at once at time of sale or for your monthly payment. If you’re set firm on $30,000, be ready to walk away even if your dream car is sitting in front of you. Go through your budget before you go to the dealership so you’re not easily swayed if they give you a higher price than what you can afford.
  • Consider your new insurance payment when you’re figuring out your monthly affordability. If you know what you want, you can ask your insurance agent to run a quote so you’re not surprised with the new figures. It may even turn out to be lower than you think, giving you some wiggle room with your car payment.
  • Speaking of wiggle room with your car payment, pull up a loan application app on your phone and keep it handy. Familiarize yourself with how much an additional $1000 on your loan costs per month at the average interest rate. This will help you decide if those pricy add-ons are worth it. If you really want a navigational system or an upgraded stereo or those heated leather seats, it may be worth the extra $15 or so per month. 
  • Once you’ve signed the paperwork, there is usually no backing out. Different states have different requirements, so be ready to keep the car or deal with the possible negative implications on your credit should you change your mind later. That extra $15 may be too much or you may just wish you’d spent it to get the car of your dreams.
  • Do your homework before you leave the house. Consider exactly what you need the car for. If you do a lot of commuting, that gas guzzling V-8 may not be your best option. Need to carry your pets around a lot? An SUV could be best. Think about who will be riding with you, if you do more street than freeway driving and if you need a big trunk space. If you’re thinking about a two-door model, be sure that your frequent passengers are able to get in and out of the back seat. Have your tallest family member sit in one if you can, so you can ensure their comfort. Then take the models you are considering and run them through payment calculators while researching the actual value so you know how much of a markup there is. Will it work in the long-term? Will it need to hold carseats? Will it be good for long road trips or vacations? Business travel? 
  • Need more time than a test drive will allow? Consider renting a car model that you've got in mind for purchase. You'll have more time to put it through its paces and see if it works for you on a regular day's travels.
  • Ask questions. Dealers can be known for extending the length of the process with their negotiation tactics. If a price sounds different or you’re not comfortable with anything you hear, ask about it.
  • If there is more than one of you that will be shopping, be on the same page as much as you can — at least in front of any dealer staff. If you don’t agree, ask for a few moments of privacy to talk without any pressure.
  • Go to more than one dealership to be sure you’re comfortable with the staff, the location and the distance from your home, as this may be where you’ll need to get work done. If it’s too far, will it be too inconveniencing to return for maintenance? If you don’t like the staff or there is no place to work while you wait, consider how you’ll have to handle that for future visits. Another good question is if they provide shuttle for service appointments.
  • Inspect the car thoroughly. A Carfax is a wonderful tool, and be sure to test drive it on a couple of different locations so you can see how fast it accelerates, brakes and turns. It may handle much differently than you are used to and sometimes the adjustment is not worth it. Ask the salesman to go over it all with you. If you have a phone connection, ask them to set it up before you leave. You are paying a lot and they should be willing to help you all the way out the driveway.
  • Don’t forget parking. Will it fit in your garage or carport? Does it have an alarm so your insurance rates are lower and so it’s safe if parked outside? 
  • Do I need a maintenance agreement or extra warranty package? Look at the cost and ask for the loan payment figures with and without. Read the coverages carefully. Many can be worth it, especially if your car is a sports vehicle. Getting car rental coverage is helpful and often adds very little cost to the package, even if you only need it during maintenance.

Whatever you do, a car purchase is a huge commitment. Do your due diligence by spending the time prior to research. You don’t want to be three years into a five year loan and hate your vehicle. Planning ahead of time also helps prevent a spontaneous decision, like purchasing that dream sports car convertible only to get home and remember you have no space for luggage or a stroller. A car should be enjoyed without cringing each payment. Plan ahead and have fun! Outside of your home, it’s the biggest purchase you’ll make!