You would think that, after gaining so much experience with cars recently, it would be easy for me to buy one. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, buying a car is never a stress-free experience. I learned that last November when Frans and I needed to replace our sole family car. I did learn a lot from our 8+ hours at the dealership and I hope these tips for buying a new car help make your experience run a bit smoother.
Tips for Buying a New Car or Used Car — Know Before You Go
Before you even get ready to buy a car, you should already know what kind of car you want. I don’t mean just having an idea of the brand you want to get. In fact, you should keep your mind open to researching models by various manufacturers. It may surprise you how much some brands have changed and improved (or declined) in recent years.
Narrow down your choices as much as possible. Make a list of the features you want, your budget, and a few specific models that fit your needs. Here are some questions to think about.
- What is your primary use for the car? (i.e. commute, family, long-distance travel, fun)
- How many passengers will you have on a daily basis? (i.e. do you need the third row all the time, do you need a roomy trunk, will your family be expanding anytime soon)
- Do you need to enough room for one or more car seats? (i.e. wide hip space, doors that open enough for easy access the child)
- Will you have senior passengers? (i.e. should have doors that open wide, easy to get in and out of without having to climb up or down)
- What type of engine do you want? (i.e. 4-cylinder, 6-cylinder, turbo, hybrid, or electric only)
- Is gas mileage important to you? (i.e. 20-30 mpg is typical for 4-cylinder or turbo gas engine cars)
- How much maintenance are you prepared for? (i.e. requires expensive imported parts, known for frequent repairs, or mostly trouble-free)
- What features do you want? (i.e. good sound system, premium finishes, navigation, modern tech options)
Tips for Buying a New Car or Used Car — Do the Research
After you have a few models picked out, read unbiased car reviews and check the official sites. Then, take each one out for a test-drive. Ultimately, no matter how good it looks on paper, it will all come down to how the car feels to you when driving it. If you’re not 100% comfortable in it now, you will never be happy with it later.
We used TrueCar.com to find a fair price for the model and trim of car we wanted. It also generated a list of dealerships in the area that would guarantee that price. We used that list to search local inventories for the exact color and package we wanted. Then, we emailed the dealerships to compare prices and to start the negotiation process.
Also, since we were also trading in a car, we used KBB.com. We input the model, mileage, and condition to find the going market value of our car. When heading to the dealership, we brought our research with us. We made sure to bring our laptop and printed copies of the TrueCar.com and KBB.com quotes.
This should be enough to make the negotiation process a little less stressful. I have been able to help several people using these tips and their car buying experiences were great. One woman followed these to buy a used car and it worked just as well.
Much boils down to the particular dealership you work with, though. Read part two to ready yourself for the “worst case scenario.”