Buying a car is a tricky proposition, even for experienced buyers. Whether you’re buying your first car or your tenth, keep in mind these strategies to ensure you get the best possible deal when shopping.
Know What You Need
Before you so much as step on the lot, you should have a solid sense of what you need. Ask yourself what you need out of a car. Do you need a car for work purposes? Will you be carrying a lot of weight in your car? How about passengers, will you be hauling a lot of them? Get a sense of what kind of car you’re looking for, what extras you might need, and so on. This will help you both price the car you want and ensure you get what you’re looking for.
What Can You Afford?
The next step is to look at your budget, both short and long-term. Sit down with your budget and break out what you can afford. Remember that you need to leave room in your budget not just for your car, but also for gas and repairs. If a monthly payment will eat up your entire budget, it’s not one you should be taking on. The best way to ensure you can afford it is, if possible, to set aside your maximum payment for a few months and see how that works with your budget. If you can afford it, you’ve got a maximum payment.
Get Your Financing First
It’s a common mistake that many of us make, assuming that dealerships are the only source of financing. But in fact, there are dozens of lenders out there, ranging from your local bank to alternative lenders on the Internet. By putting together your financing beforehand, you give yourself a few advantages. First, you get the best possible deal on your financing, with the lowest interest rate and the shortest term. Secondly, it puts you a level playing field with the dealership; by removing financing from the discussion, it allows you to focus entirely on getting the car you need.
Don’t Agree To The First Numbers
Haggling is part of the car shopping experience … and, not unreasonably, many of us hate it. Still, it’s important to know that the first numbers are not set in stone, and you can challenge them. It’s part of the reason you should have your budget together; if the first numbers are something you can’t afford, or would prefer not to pay, you can say as much.
Remember, you don’t have to haggle at all, especially without financing; you can just email with the dealership to discuss cars and schedule test drives.
Trust Your Gut
Above all, trust what your gut is telling you. The reality of the situation is that you’re going to be working with a dealership for quite a few years as you pay off your car, have it repaired, and otherwise live with it. You need to feel you can work with your dealership over a long period of time. If you don’t have that feeling, for whatever reason, thank them for their time and leave.
Always negotiate when buying a car, but also always remember that the goal is to get behind the wheel. Do your research, secure your financing, and you’ll be on the road before you know it.