For many people, the process of buying a new car is uncomfortable—not because they aren’t excited for a new ride, but because they may feel overwhelmed and unknowledgeable. Plus, sometimes working with a car salesperson can be awkward, especially if you’ve never bought a car before.
But as in any new situation, knowledge is power. Knowing beforehand the best way to buy a car and how to navigate the process step by step can help you pick the right vehicle and feel comfortable and confident the entire way. If you’re getting ready to purchase a new car, follow our favorite car buying tips:
1. Do Your Homework
Before heading to the dealership to do some car shopping, investigate different makes and models from home. Decide if you want new or used, and narrow your top choices down to about five cars. Learn about the different features and price points for each one. Research cars within your price range on Edmunds.com, Consumer Reports, and Kelley Blue Book. Your trip to the dealership should be about test driving to narrow down your final choice, not learning about a specific car for the first time.
2. Investigate Financing Options
Dealerships don’t want to just sell you a car—they want to set you up with financing. While many people do end up getting a loan through the car dealership, this isn’t the most responsible option. Interest rates are usually much higher on loans from a dealership, rather than banks or credit unions. Before going to the dealership, research financing options. Check in with your local bank and online lenders. Get pre-approved for a loan and bring your interest rate quotes with you to the dealership—you may even be able to use them to negotiate a lower rate.
3. Know Your Trade-in Value
Are you planning to trade in an older vehicle to put toward your new car? Again, do your research. Use Kelley Blue Book or other online sources to nail down the trade-in value of your car. Remember that condition is an important part of this figure and, no matter how well you’ve taken care of your car, most cars are in fair or good condition, rather than excellent. You may even have a professional come and appraise your car. Take this information with you to the dealership. It’s best to hold off on the details about your trade-in until you’ve negotiated a good price on your new car.
That brings us to the next step. The best way to buy a car is to negotiate. Don’t be afraid to push back and negotiate through any part of the process. If you don’t like the price, say so. Let the salesperson know you aren’t going to be pushed around. Plan on walking out of at least one dealership during negotiations.
5. Research Discounts
One of the biggest car buying tips is to look for ways to save money wherever possible. If a dealership is offering any cash back or other promotion, make sure you know about it (and about any deals offered by their competitors—you may be able to use this to negotiate). Some places will offer discounts to students or military members, and many have big sales around the holidays. Many cars are returned around spring, fall, or the end of the year, making this a good time to get a deal on a used car. New cars are at their lowest prices at the end of the year when dealerships are looking to make room for new models and meet annual sales goals.
6. Take Your Time on the Test Drive
Know exactly which cars you want to test drive before heading in. Call and make an appointment, and make sure the vehicle you’re driving is the exact model you’re interested in. Take your time on the drive to make sure this car is one you really like. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time behind the wheel, and make sure to adjust the seats, try out the passenger seats, and investigate the storage space. Bring your kids along and see if their car seats fit and if they’re comfortable. Hopefully, this goes without saying, but don’t ever agree to purchase a car without driving it first.
7. Don’t Buy Any “Extras”
Once you’ve committed to the car, the salesperson will bring you into a room and attempt to sell you more “extras” or “add-ons.” Dealerships can make a lot of money off of these things, and it’s hard to tell in the moment whether or not you’re getting a good deal. Many purchases can be made after the fact, if you really want them. A GPS can be bought online, and you may not actually need a rear camera or heated seats. Be careful about warranties and insurance. You can always buy an extended warranty later, after calling around for different prices—but if you buy the warranty with your car, it will be financed as part of your car loan.
Buying a car is definitely overwhelming. But these car buying tips will help you follow the best way to buy a car. It is possible to buy a car feeling confident you aren’t paying anything but the best price. A car is a huge investment, and you want to make sure you protect your money along the way.
Looking for other smart ways to take care of your money? Learn more about Lift Credit’s services.