The decision to buy a car is easy, the steps to make it happen can be stressful and daunting. If you take a systematic approach and cover all your bases, the process can be much smoother and maybe even fun!
1. Determine How Much You Can Afford
First, you need to determine how much you can afford. Will you be paying for the car in cash or financing it? Leasing is also another option for you to consider. Once you know how much you want to spend that will narrow down the list of cars you can buy.
2. Check Your Credit Score
Knowing your credit score is essential in helping you negotiate a deal and saving you money. With some online services, you can get a free copy of your credit report within just seconds. A good credit score earns you a much lower interest rate in many cases.
3. Secure Financing
It’s better to go into a dealership with your financing already in place. You can still finance through the dealership if they offer you a better deal. However, you will save a lot of hassle, obtaining financing for the car you want to buy and going in prepared. You can then compare interest rates and choose the best option for you.
4. Decide on New or Used
The decision to buy new or used can be complicated. On the one hand, buying new means there most likely won’t be any repairs or issues, you will enjoy an extended warranty and pay less in interest. However, once you drive it off the lot, it is used, and you eat the depreciation. With a used car, it will cost less, but you will pay a higher financing fee, have less of a warranty, and there may be defects or mechanical issues to worry about. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with a lot of research and information on the types of cars you want to buy. Chances are, there will be a specific make or model that stands up well over time, and a used car might be the best option.
Another thing to consider is that if you do buy pre-owned, do you buy from a dealer or a private sale? The dealer may offer a warranty and certify that they made all recall repairs, but with a private sale, you take your chances.
5. Research Trade-In Value
If you are trading in an old vehicle, find out what it is worth. You can use Kelly Blue Book online to find out how much your old car is worth and then decide if it is better to trade it in or sell it yourself for more money.
6. Check Crash Statistics on Makes/Models
Whether you are buying new or used, research the makes and models you are interested in to check crash statistics and vehicle histories. If specific vehicles fare poorly in crash tests, stay away from those.
7. Look up Car History/Repair Records
You can check a VIN number on both used and new cars to find out if the vehicle has any crash history, flood damage, or airbag deployments. Many public records search websites allow you to type in a VIN and find out all about a used car. You will see a full report including liens on the vehicle, other owners, accident history, odometer settings, title history and if the car was labeled a lemon.
8. Pay for an Inspection
Spring for the inspection. Hire your own mechanic to check things out before purchasing a used car from a dealer or a private seller. You cannot be too careful when buying a used car.
9. Assess Ownership Costs/Maintenance
So much information exists online, and you can easily look up a specific car to see what other owners pay for maintenance costs, gas, licensing, insurance and other fees on a regular basis.
10. Test Drive
Don’t skip the test drive and take your time, check everything out especially if you are testing a used car. Before you sign on the dotted line and drive away in your new car, make sure it’s love at first drive.
Any time you decide to buy a car you need to weigh all the options and make the best decision for you and your situation. By doing a little homework before beginning the process, you can sail through buying a car like an expert.