Buying a new car can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be. Getting a good deal on an awesome car is just a matter of being careful and making sure you cover your bases on all the most essential details. If you’re looking to purchase a new or used car, there are some important steps that you can follow in order to make the process as painless (and maybe even fun!) as possible.
The first thing you need to decide is the amount in your budget. That will largely depend on your personal monthly income and how much you value having a certain car, but a good rule of thumb is to spend around 10% of your monthly after-tax income on car payments. Of course, less than that is always better.
- Pick Your Vehicle
This part is fun: decide what kind of car you want! Cruising around town, there are bound to be a few cars that catch your eye. Are you in the market for a sleek sedan? Perhaps a sensible high mileage compact car? A rugged camping-ready crossover? Thanks to the Internet, there are plenty of ways to browse makes and models using online auto dealerships. It’s important to get a sense of what the offerings are, so make sure you browse around before making any decisions. Of course, once you’ve decided on the general kind of car you’re into, you’re going to want to know how to spot a good deal. That brings us to number 3.
- Research Pricing
Do research into fair pricing for your desired make and model. Are you about to pay 15k for a 2008 Corolla? Don’t. There are good tools online for researching fair pricing. Kelley Blue Book is an old standby; there, you can find information about what a fair price for your favorite make, model, and year might be. Not only that, but they’ll tell you about perks and downsides of different models (but more on that in a minute). You should also be mindful of dealership fees and keep an eye on the trade-in or resale value for your desired car, just in case you need to sell it down the road. Make sure you know going into your search what a fair price for your desired car should be—and that that price is within your budget!
- Keep Ongoing Costs in Mind
As you’ve probably noticed, the price tag on the car is not the end of the story. Cars require not only monthly payments but also gas, regular maintenance including oil and tire changes, as well as the occasional repair. Not all cars are equal in this regard, so you should use an online tool to check out what features of the car are likely to break often or require costly maintenance. If you have a particular make or model in mind, make sure there’s a dealership in your area who can provide the right service. For example, if you live in the Windy City and buy an A8, you’ll want to research Audi service near Chicago before committing to your purchase. Also in this category, safety is a pretty big concern: definitely check out your preferred car’s safety ratings before committing.
- Consider Financing Options
This last tip is very important to making sure you get the best deal possible. You should know before going into the dealership (in person or online) how you plan on paying for the car. There are a couple of different ways to go about this. Most likely, you’ll be looking into financing options (as in, not paying the whole price all at once). While some dealerships may offer their own in-house financing, it’s probably good to look at auto loans through your credit union first. They may be able to offer you a better interest rate and having their backing might give you some more confidence if you want to negotiate a lower price.
Once you’ve sorted out these essentials, it’s time to buy your car! It can seem like a lot to handle—but remember, once you’ve followed the steps given above, you’ll be well on your way to making a smart decision about your new ride.