Buying a new car is a big investment, but that doesn’t mean the experience needs to be stressful. Here are a few car buying tips to make your next car-buying experience a great one.
- Do your research. Decide what car will best fit your lifestyle and transportation needs, down to the model, trim line, and color. Establish a realistic budget based on what you can afford to spend each month on a car payment, fuel, and insurance. Check the manufacturer’s website for sales incentives like cash rebates or low-interest financing - those incentives can potentially help you save hundreds of dollars.
- Get pre-approved. Most people who buy a car will need a loan. The cost of that loan will depend on your credit history, so be sure to get a copy of your credit report (you’re entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three nationwide credit-reporting agencies). When you know your credit history, you’ll have a more accurate picture of what you can expect from lenders. Before you go to the dealership to buy, shop for a loan with the best interest rates and terms. Check your local bank or credit union for financing options, and keep in mind that you may find the best value directly from the manufacturer - promotional rates are sometimes as low as zero percent.
- Make an appointment. When you’ve done your research and you’re pre-approved for financing, call ahead and set up an appointment at the dealership. Making an appointment in advance communicates that you are serious about buying, and can save you time on your test-drive day. By letting the dealer know what vehicle you’re interested in, you give them the opportunity to find the car and bring it out of inventory ahead of your visit.
- Come prepared. Bring your driver’s license and proof of auto insurance with you. You’ll also need to bring proof of income to verify your employment (a bank statement or paycheck stub) and proof of residence (a piece of mail from your current address, like a utility bill). Don’t forget to bring some form of payment to fund your down payment. When you call to make an appointment, ask about what forms of payment the dealer accepts.
- Negotiation tips. If you’re buying a new car, get a true market estimate on the model so that you can make an educated offer based on the dealer’s actual cost. With a little research, you’ll be able to offer a deal that still gives them a fair profit. You can also request new car price quotes from multiple dealers in your area, and then contact your preferred dealer to see if they can meet or beat the best price.
- Be realistic. When you buy a car, be realistic about your credit and what rates you qualify for, your budget and how much you can really afford, and the balance between your needs and your wants. By putting in an hour or two of research, getting pre-approved, making an appointment, and showing up prepared, you’re much more likely to find a vehicle that delivers in every way.