So you’re out of the service and it’s time to finally buy your dream car you’ve been thinking about forever or maybe you just want to trade in that POS clunker you’ve had since the 90’s.
Car shopping can be a fun process, but also stressful. Here are eight steps to keep the process pain free.
1. Assess Your Needs
Consider what you will be using your car for and what exactly you are looking for in a vehicle. Do you have a long commute? Do you need a vehicle that can transport things back and forth? Do you want a small car, an SUV or a truck? Are you looking to buy or lease that car? Is safety a top priority? What about fuel efficiency? Considering these questions, and what specifically you want in a car, should help you narrow down your choices.
2. Research, Research, and Research Some More
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it is a good idea to spend some quality time researching. Sites such as Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book offer information on car comparisons, car reviews, car values and much, much more. You can also utilize sites such as Consumer Reports that can give you invaluable information on how fuel efficient a particular car is and its safety ratings.
3. Shop Around
After you’ve spent some quality time researching your top choices, shop around at different dealerships. Trying to find out what a dealer paid for a particular car can be invaluable information, as well as the dealership’s bottom line. In an article from U.S. News and World Report, Geoff Williams talks of how “you may be saddled with a vehicle registration fee, title fee, license fee, documentation fee, compliance fee, emission testing fee, floor plan fee, advertising fee, and dealer preparation fee.” It is important to know about any, and all, fees a dealer may be incorporating into the sticker price of a car so you can shop around.
4. Get Some Quotes
A great way to find out what you may potentially pay for your top car choices is to secure some online quotes. Many dealerships have a sales office that will provide a quote to you online. Daniel Bortz in an article published in U.S. News and World Report states that you want to “start by emailing local dealerships’ Internet sales managers and asking for quotes. It’s important that you ask for an ‘out the door’ quote, which includes all fees and taxes. Some fees are negotiable, like dealer fees, but others are not.” You can also check out sites such as PriceQuotes for quotes on particular cars.
5. Consider the Paperwork
Research any rebates or incentives dealerships are offering. Also, consider how you will be paying for the car. This is a good time to check your credit scores and research possible loans to secure payment. Know what financing local banks may offer so you can compare that to any financing the dealership may offer.
6. Make the Most of the Test Drive
One of the most important things you can do before purchasing a car is take your top contenders out for a test drive. Test driving a car will give you a chance to see how the car handles and to ask specific questions of the salesperson. This is the time to pay attention to the particulars and details, so don’t be afraid to make sure you get the most out of your test drive. You can even return for a follow-up test drive if you still aren’t sure.
7. Negotiate a Price that Works
The car price, any trade-in you may have and financing are three important factors in making sure you get the price you want. Make sure the deal you negotiate works in terms of your monthly car payments and that you get what you consider to be a fair deal on both financing and trade-ins. Cars.com will give you an accurate idea of what your car is worth before you walk in to negotiate that trade. Do your research and be prepared with what you expect to receive for your trade-in.
8. Be OK With Walking Away
So you’ve done all the research, narrowed it down to your top choice and fallen in love over the test drive. Stand firm with what you are willing to pay or have as a monthly car payment. Stick to that price or payment when finalizing a sale. If you feel a salesperson, or a particular dealership, is trying to pull a fast one on you with hidden fees or false promises, be willing to walk away and take your business elsewhere.
Buying a new car is very exciting, but it requires a little research and due diligence. Keep these tips in mind and you will be driving away in your new car in no time.