Buying your first car can be a fun, if not overwhelming, experience. It’s a little taste of freedom along with a side dish of responsibility, so it’s best to keep a few things in mind before you venture into this next step.
1. Decide Whether to Buy or Lease
This one is a little bit of cheating because technically leasing a car isn’t buying one, but you’re still putting the car in your name and making yourself financially responsible for any repairs that the car needs. At the same time, leasing a car means you can typically get a better car for less money, so decide what you want to do before you walk in.
2. Do Your Research
Not all cars are made the same, just as no two car lots will deliver the same service either. Before you walk into any dealership (regardless of intention to buy or not), do your homework to determine which car you want and which dealership you would like to buy from. Get an idea of the type of upcharges a dealership will try to offer you, as well as the comparable prices from other cars in your area. Bring that research with you so the dealer won’t be able to pull a fast one on you.
3. Set a Budget
Review your finances before you go in to know exactly what type of car you can afford and stick to it the whole time. Regardless of what the dealer tells you, try to stay away from talking about “minimum payments” and instead focus on the total sales price. Any salesman worth their salt can finagle the numbers to give you the car at the payment you want, but it may take a bloated interest rate and ten years of payments to do so.
4. Test Drive
After you’ve done your research, go for a test drive in several vehicles that you’re considering. Take it offroad, test it on the highway, and if possible, take it to your local mechanic for a once-over.
5. Look For Discounts
Many dealers will offer a bonus if you buy at a certain time of the year, so be aware of any specials they may have ongoing. Also, buy your car at the end of the month if possible as well: salesmen have quotas to meet, and the closer they get to the end of the month if they haven’t met that quota, the more likely they might be to make a deal.
6. You Can Always Walk Away
There are thousands of dealerships all vying for your business, so no matter how much one salesperson tries to pressure you into signing for a car, remember that you can always take your business elsewhere. There’s no reason to buy a car you can’t afford or don’t want simply because the salesperson tells you to.