Buying your first car is an exciting time, but it can also be a confusing and overwhelming prospect. Here’s a guide to ensuring you end up with a sweet ride.
225 million people in the United States drive cars which amounts to over two-thirds of the domestic population. Given that massive volume of drivers, chances are you’re going to purchase a vehicle at some point in your life.
Buying your first car can be exciting and stressful in equal measure. On the one hand, you’re going to have a valuable asset that you’ll probably be making monthly payments on which is an important step towards being an adult. On the other hand, you’re going to have to go through the process of acquiring that asset which can be a huge headache.
If you don’t know the first thing about car-buying, don’t worry. Our team is here to help.
Here are 8 pragmatic steps that you can take to pick up the best car at the best price.
1. Assess Your Needs
There are a lot of cars out there boasting different features, aesthetics, and everything in-between. While it can be tempting to scrape together your savings and splurge on that electric-powered sports car that you’ve been eyeing, that’s probably not a good idea.
Unless money is of no consequence to you, buying your first car should be about taking care of your needs.
Remember, you’re going to be making payments on whatever car you pick up. A pragmatic car might cost you $100.00 – $250.00 per month which leaves you with wiggle room to save for other important things in your life. A dream car could run you over $750.00 per month which might mean needing to take on a second job.
2. Do Research
After you’ve gone through what your needs are, you should have a mental or preferably, a physical list of non-negotiable features that your car needs. Things like great fuel economy, 5 seats, and 4 doors are all common must-haves.
With your needs assessed, go online to see which car models check the boxes for you at an affordable price. When you’ve found a few models that are of interest, use websites like AutoTrader to see if local dealerships have the car that you’re looking for.
3. Pick a Slow Day to Visit a Dealership
Weekends are always a convenient time to buy cars. Unfortunately though, weekends also tend to be among the busiest times for car sellers. Because of that, sales representatives may rush you through the buying process in an attempt to sell as many vehicles as possible in a day.
To make sure that you have the breathing room that you need to explore your options, try to shop during the week in the early afternoon. You could also try going into a dealership when they first open on a Sunday morning.
4. Get Comfortable Before You Get Pitched
Buying your first car can feel extra uncomfortable when you first step foot on a dealership’s lot. From the moment you start browsing inventory, you’ll likely have multiple salespeople trying to “help you” by pushing you to buy so they can collect a commission.
Our recommendation is to tell sales representatives that you’re just browsing and will let them know if you have any questions. That way you can enjoy a low-pressure browsing experience before you start having to endure the sales pitch.
5. Pay Attention During Your Test Drive
While everybody test drives a car before they buy it, few people actually pay close attention to the car as they do.
A dealer wouldn’t let you test drive a car that they thought was going to break down the moment that you drove it off of the lot. They would, however, let you test drive a car that’s making the occasional odd noise, vibrates when it’s at stoplights and has a number of other odd quirks that could mean big trouble down the line.
Note anything that seems odd as you test your prospective vehicle. If the car’s quirks are concerning, go with another car. Could you image taking this 2014 Dodge Ram 1500 on air suspension for a test ride?
6. Be Prepared to Negotiate
The prices that dealerships offer are never their lowest prices. If saving a few hundred or even thousands of dollars in some cases is important to you, be prepared to negotiate.
Leverage tools like Kelly Blue Book to determine how much the car you’re interested in is selling for on average. Use that information to ask your dealer for a good deal.
If the sales representative that you’re working with isn’t willing to budge on their price, don’t be afraid to walk away.
7. Explore Dealership Financing
Most people can’t afford to buy a car all-cash. If that’s the case for you, you can Google “buy here pay here near me” which will let you know which dealerships in the area offers financing on the cars that they sell.
Dealership financing is typically flexible towards people with sub-prime credit so never be afraid to see if a buy here pay here dealership is willing to work with you, no matter your financial history.
8. Skip the Upgrades
The last step of the buying your first car process will be to sign your final paperwork and drive off of the lot. During this final stage, your dealership’s sales manager will offer you all kinds of upgrades.
Say no to everything.
Last-second upgrades are an up-selling strategy employed by dealerships that never represent a good value to buyers.
Buying Your First Car Doesn’t Have to Be a Stressful Process
Buying your first car should be more exciting than it is stressful. If you follow the steps that we’ve just laid out we’re confident that you’ll have a great experience and will love the vehicle that you walk away with.
For additional information on all things cars, check out more of the stellar content that we have featured in our digital publication!