Buying a new car can be a fun thing to do, but it’s also a lot of money and even more time. Here are 10 steps to take to get the car you want.
1) Make a List of Cars You’re Interested In
It seems simple, but make a list of the cars you want to try out. Remember to factor your needs into this as well. What will you be using your car for? How many people will you be hauling around? Will your spouse or teenager also be using this car, and if so, what for?
2) Research Quality and Complaints
The wonderful thing about the Internet is that you can just search for any car and find dozens — or even hundreds — of professional reviews, consumer comments, and official reports about your car, its benefits and drawbacks, and how it may or may not suit you. Also look into ratings sites such as Consumer Reports to get a sense of the reliability and safety of the car.
3) Research Your Local Dealers
Similarly, look up your local dealers. Are there any complaints about pushy tactics, bad behavior, or post-purchase support? Conversely, are there dealers highly rated in your area for customer service? Look at everybody.
4) Get Insurance Quotes For Your List
Remember, a car isn’t just the car payment, it’s the auto insurance. Call your insurer with your list of vehicles and find out how your premiums will change when you switch vehicles. Be very sure to ask about what options and extras you can get to lower your premiums: For example, a GPS tracking device may cut your payments substantially if you live in a high-theft area or have a car thieves love to steal.
5) Figure Out What You’ll Get For Your Trade-In
If you’re trading in a car, make a few calls and research online to find out what your car’s Blue Book value is, and what local dealerships think it’s actually worth. Dealerships will often have certain models of car that they’re looking for, and if you have one, you could be in a great position in terms of negotiating.
6) Set a Realistic Budget
With insurance and trade-in in hand, look at your budget and ask some questions. How much can you spend on a down payment? How much can you afford to pay per month? How much will your trade-in help with these costs?
7) Test Drive The Vehicles On Your List
No matter how great a car is on paper, you’ll need to figure out whether it’s right for you. So get behind the wheel. Make it clear that you’re test driving cars only, and not making a decision that day.
8) Discuss Terms With the Dealership
For the cars you’re interested in, contact the dealership via phone or email. Ask them for their ballpark estimates on payments, and to send you a sample agreement for you to look over. Remember, you’re the one who can walk away, so ignore any attempts to pressure you.
9) Compare Terms
Look closely at any sample agreements you’re sent and what your obligations are for each vehicle. Remember that how much you like the car is a strong factor here: Don’t “settle” just because one car is slightly cheaper.
10)Compare Options and Features
A seemingly cheap car can get expensive quickly once you get into options and features. Weigh how much the options you want will add to the price against their value. For example, if you live in a snowy area, splash guards may make sense to keep corroding salt away from your car’s body work.
Remember, there’s no reason this can’t be fun. But do your research first, and you’ll come away with a better car at a better price.