First, take a deep breath. Do a couple minutes of meditation and don’t panic. Let this list of car shopping tips get you started.
Set a Budget
Brian Moody, site editor for AutoTrader.com, said one of the most important things to consider in the buying process is what you can afford.
“Set a price limit before shopping,” Moody said. “If you’re taking out a loan, make sure the payments and the price make sense. Never shop by payment alone. A lender or dealership can make any monthly payment low, but that might not be the best deal in the long run.”
Find What Works for You
After setting a budget, Moody said you should next consider your situation and pick a car to suit it.
“A family with more than 3 kids will likely need a vehicle with three rows of seating,” he said. “Those who tow or frequently go off-road will want a truck or truck-based SUV.”
Moody also recommends that consumers rank how important certain attributes are to them. Here are some factors to consider:
- Fuel economy
- Interior space
- Navigation system
Be Flexible in Negotiations
Moody also mentions that you will get a better deal with the car that’s on the lot than one the dealer has to go and order.
Along those same lines, Karl Brauer, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com, said that a consumer can usually get a better deal on something that has been on the lot for a while as dealers are motivated to move it.
“Examples would include a 2014 model as we get closer to 2015 in the coming weeks,” Brauer said. “Other examples would include cars with a manual transmission or painted an unusual color. Of course these features have to be okay with the buyer, but if a shopper can be flexible on these items they can get a better deal.”
After negotiations comes paying for it. Moody recommends having your financing in order or at least knowing your options ahead of time.
“Always ask your bank or credit union first,” he said. “The dealer may be able to beat the bank’s interest rate, but at least have pre-approval ready in case you find just the right car for you early in the shopping process. Know your credit score – this avoids surprises, as your interest rate will be tied to your credit score. Better credit score means better financing options.”
Buying from Dealers vs. Individuals
You may be able to get a better deal from an individual when buying a used car because they need to get rid of it. However, there can be advantages to buying from a dealership.
“Buying from a dealer will usually mean paying a higher price,” Brauer said, “though it also means having more choice and can often mean some kind of limited warranty –either by buying a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) car, or by negotiating a warranty during the purchase process. Dealers will usually want to sell used cars without an expressed warranty so a buyer should consider whether that’s important to them.”
Most people don’t think about this right away when going to get a new car. The fact is that someday your baby birds will leave the nest and you may want to trade that Town & Country for a rocking Charger.
When that time comes, you’ll want to get the most you can, so you might as well start considering resale value now. Brauer has a couple tips.
“One indicator of how a car will hold value is looking at similar cars from the manufacturer and seeing how they’ve performed in the past,” he said. “This is where Kelley Blue Book’s awards for past models and brands can be very helpful. If a make and/or model has a history of holding its value well, it’s very likely the current models will follow that same pattern.”
Do you have any tips we might have forgotten to mention? What’s your dream car and why? Leave us a note in the comments.
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