Buying your first car is an exciting step – but it can also be overwhelming and stressful and is never filled with as much uncertainty as it is the first time. If you take the time to do a little research before visiting the dealerships, your first car-buying experience can be a lot less stressful and a lot more fun! Being a good first-time buyer won't be easy, but if it's worth doing – and it is – it's worth doing well. We've come up with some tips to help with the process.
Establish a realistic budget. This figure is generally based on what you can afford per month. Look at your cost of living – mortgage or rent payments, food, insurance, social activities. Once those are calculated, the remainder could be spent on a car payment, fuel, car insurance and maintenance.
Visit your credit union to get pre-approved for financing. Before you fall in love with a car you may not be able to afford, go to your local credit union. Their lenders can get you pre-approved for financing at a great rate that fits your lifestyle and budget. You'll also know exactly how much you can spend, which will give you added negotiating power at the dealership.
Do your research. Informed shoppers are smart shoppers, so gather some information before you start shopping. Resources like Consumer Reports, Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book offer helpful vehicle reviews and pricing information that can help you determine a fair price for the car you want.
Take a test drive . Nothing is more important in your decision process than how you feel behind the wheel. Take at least half an hour on your test drive, while trying stop-and-go, freeway merging and freeway speeds. If the sales person does not have time then take the time to find another dealership.
Bring a wingman or woman to the dealership. It's always best to work with a partner. They can help you decide what car to buy and what to pay.
Negotiate your price. Price negotiation is probably the most overwhelming part of the car-buying process, but it is important for you to stick to your strategy. If you've done your research, you'll have a good idea whether the dealer's offer is fair. Keep in mind that the dealer's first price is rarely their best price, so don't be afraid to reject the initial offer. If the dealer can't meet your target price, walk away. Buying a car is a big step and the transaction has to be right for you.
Buyer beware. Before signing the final contract, ask the dealer to explain each item. Dealers have been known to include extra charges for items like "fabric protection," "paint sealant" or "rust proofing" that may not be necessary. If there are charges you're not comfortable with, don't be afraid to point them out.
First-time buyers should also be wary of financing deals that sound too good to be true. Offers like "0% dealer financing" may sound good, but as a first-time buyer you may not qualify for these attractive specials.
Most importantly, enjoy the process. We know the tips referenced above can make buying a car seem daunting, but with low financing rates, and hundred of cars and trucks to choose from, your options are amazing (especially in the first-time buyer category). So take your time as you move through the process and you'll be astounded with the outcome.
With a little advanced planning, a solid negotiating strategy and appropriate financing, buying your first car can be a fun and a stress-free experience!