Whether you’re a recent grad or simply someone who’s never needed to secure their own wheels, buying a car for the first time can be a little intimidating. There are several things to consider as you get started, and making your way through without getting disappointed or distracted takes some know-how. If you’re gearing up to buy your first ride, here are a few tips to help ease the process.
First-time Car Buyer Tip #1: Know What You Want
It’s important to know what you want when you’re a first-time car buyer, but keep it reasonable. A convertible may be your dream car, or maybe it’s a massive SUV that catches your eye, but neither may be realistic for what you need. Consider what you’ll use the vehicle for—commuting, road trips, or traveling to business meetings—and select a car that fits those needs.
With functionality in mind, you can then move on to the fun stuff. Be sure to give some thought to the features you want in your new car before heading to the dealership. Because you’ll be in the driver’s seat for several years, you want to make sure you aren’t compromising on your must-have list, as long as that list fits your budget… but more on that in a moment!
First-time Car Buyer Tip #2: Do Your Research
In the age of the internet, researching vehicles to purchase is as simple as a few clicks. After deciding the type of car you want, you can use countless resources online to read driver reviews, see purchase price details in your area, and find a local dealership that has what you’re looking for. Take time to do this important step. If you find information that doesn’t align with your wants or budget, it’s far better to know long before you’re sitting in front of a salesperson.
First-time Car Buyer Tip #3: Understand Your Budget
Now it’s time to address the big, bad “b-word.” Most car buyers, whether it’s their first time or their fifth, need to use an auto loan to purchase the vehicle they want. If this is your first dance with debt, don’t worry. There is no reason to be scared by the process, but you do need to know what you can realistically afford. Fortunately, you can estimate your monthly payment in a matter of seconds using this tool located on many dealerships’ websites. Having this information will make for a much more pleasant car-buying experience, helping you steer clear of disappointment or stretching your cash flow too thin.
In addition to your monthly car loan payment, consider the costs of ongoing maintenance and upkeep that go hand in hand with owning a vehicle. If you’re unsure about the average expenses for the car you want, go back to the research step or ask your new friends at the dealership.
First-time Car Buyer Tip #4: Set Aside Enough Time
As a first-time car buyer, you may think that having an idea of what you want, doing the research, and getting up close and personal with your finances is all it takes to get behind the wheel. While these are important steps, they should all take place before you head to your dealership of choice. Once you arrive, you should still be prepared to be there for some time. That’s because buying a vehicle is a major purchase that involves the transfer of ownership from the dealership to you—and that means paperwork.
Your salesperson will also want to make sure you’re getting the things you want in the deal, so there is the potential for lengthy discussions on features, financing, and alternatives you may not have considered. Pack your patience, and know that buying a car can’t be done in a matter of minutes.
First-time Car Buyer Tip #5: Test Drive It!
One of the more exciting parts of buying a car for the first time is the test drive. You may be tempted to think that this step isn’t necessary, given all the time you put into finding exactly what you want, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A test drive gives you the opportunity to get a feel for the vehicle and identify things that may not be as comfortable or functional as you imagined. In an ideal world, you’ll love the drive as much as you love the look, but plan to test drive your future car before buying to make sure.
It may seem like a first-time car buyer has a lot to do before leaping into car ownership, but these steps are a crucial part of the process. Be sure to recognize your wants and needs, then follow that up with research and realistic budgeting. Know that it takes time to buy a car, including the test drive, so set aside enough of it to not feel rushed. By following these first-time car buyer tips, you’ll ensure you’re ready to drive off the lot with the wheels you want at a price you can afford.