So, you’re finally ready to quit taking public transportation and bumming rides off of friends and invest in your own wheels. Next to a house, a vehicle is probably the biggest purchase most of us will make, and that can be a scary thought. Following these tips can make your car buying experience much less intimidating.
Establish a budget
Before you look at anything, know how much you are willing and able to spend. One rule of thumb is that the purchase price should be at or below 20% of your annual income. Once you’ve established a maximum to spend, stick to it. Those extras add up quickly, so be sure what you’re considering stays within your budget.
Determine your needs
If you have kids, you may need a vehicle large enough for a family. If you have a long commute to work, good gas mileage may be on your needs list. Four-wheel drive may be necessary for areas with snowy winter weather.
Prioritize your wants
Wants are those extras that make the driving experience more pleasurable but aren’t deal breakers if they aren’t available. Massaging seats, heated steering wheel, or navigation system may be cool, but if they put you over your budget, may not be worth it.
Do your research
Knowing what is available and what is out there is easy thanks to the internet. Check out the available features on the vehicles you are considering before you go to the dealership. Read reviews or Consumer Reports. Look at dealership websites to see what is available at various places before you go.
Determine the purchase price
Next you should figure out what a fair purchase price is. Checking out several websites can give you an idea, as can a credit union. Know what the price should be before you go to the dealership.
Take test drives
Checking out features online is an important step, but nothing beats actually being in the car and getting a feel for how all the features work, how the car drives, and how you feel in it. Don’t just drive around the block a couple of times; take the car around town and on the highway to see how it drives under various conditions.
The car dealership isn’t your only or necessarily your best option for financing. Talk to your bank or credit union and arrange your financing in advance. If you want to finance at a dealership, shop around for the best deal.
Get the car inspected
If you are purchasing a used car, an inspection by a trusted mechanic is invaluable to save you from possible expense and aggravation down the road. It should be a red flag if a dealership won’t let you get an impartial inspection.
Negotiate the price
You can always negotiate and possibly save yourself a lot of money. Because you’ve done your homework and know what the purchase price should be and have had the car inspected, you have the information to put you in a strong negotiating position.
Read the contract carefully
Wherever you buy a car, you are entering into a legally binding agreement with the seller, so be sure you understand everything before you sign on the dotted line. Make sure there are no errors or extras included that you didn’t agree to.