Shopping for a car is a task most of us learn about on the fly. But before you go to the lot, or boot up a website, you should know how you shop and what to shop for.
Ask yourself what’s most important to you in a car. Do you want a car that’s as safe as possible? Do you want to get a good deal? Do you need a car to do certain tasks for work? Make a list of what you need out of the car you’re going to buy, before you shop.
Break out your budget and figure out what’s a sensible monthly payment for what you’re bringing home every week. Don’t forget that you’ll need to make a monthly payment for at least a few years on this car. Once you have your ideal monthly payment, start collecting quotes for auto financing; get as many quotes as possible and look for the lowest interest rate and shortest terms. This will tell you what you can afford for a car, and whether you should look at new cars or used ones. If you have a trade-in, take a moment to have it looked over and get an independent assessment. If you can afford it, now would be the time to make minor repairs on your trade-in, as well.
Do your research on the cars, focusing on what’s most important for you. Look for the cars that best suit your needs, and then start narrowing them down by looking at other factors. For example, some cars just won’t be in your price range, while still others may not have all the features or options you need. A little online research will help you narrow down your list to just a few cars. Don’t forget to research dealerships as well; look for ones with good reputations.
Look at just how much the car will cost. There are three data points to be aware of; the sticker price or MSRP, the invoice price or what the dealer has actually paid for the car to get it on the lot, and how the car is selling. An extremely popular model of car, for example, is not going to have a lot of room for negotiation, while a model that sells, but isn’t as popular, may have more room to drive down the price.
Once you’ve got all those ducks in a row, it’s time to actually try out these cars. Arrange a test drive at the various dealerships you’re considering. Make it clear that you’re not buying yet; you just want to test the car and see how it feels to you. Make sure to try every car before you consider buying; they all might suit you very well.
When you’ve found the car you want, talk to the salesperson and negotiate a price. Remember to keep points like your budget and how much you’re approved for financing close to your chest, and that the value of your trade-in and any cash back needs to be taken off the final agreed price, not the sticker price. Once you’ve worked out all these details, sign the necessary papers, and get ready to start driving your new car!