Buying a car today can be overwhelming, especially with the abundance of available vehicles and commercials touting why this or that car is the best. If you’re in the market for a new car, start doing your research early to help make an informed decision about what type of vehicle to buy and take advantage of discounts and incentives.
Follow these steps before you head to a showroom or visit an online car buying site to get the best deal.
1. Start reading vehicle reviews.
Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, and Car and Driver are good sites to visit when you begin your car shopping journey. They have detailed professional reviews on virtually every vehicle, and they’ve even road tested most of them. Like movie reviews, car reviews can be subjective depending on your personal preferences, but they can help you find vehicles within your price range while giving you some great information without spending a lot of time behind the wheel.
2. Know what you want in your car.
Develop a list of features you want in your new car to help refine your search. This will help you easily compare vehicles.
3. Start shopping for auto insurers.
Insurance is an important part of the shopping process because it can give you a sense of your anticipated monthly premium based on the car you select. Check with your current insurance company to see how much it will cost to insure different vehicles because there can be a big difference. This will give you a good idea of what different makes and models will cost to insure. When you’ve made your decision, shop different insurance companies to make sure you’re going to get the best possible rate. Mercury Insurance offers some of the lowest rates, including discounts for electric vehicles and those with high safety ratings and certain safety features. Be sure to speak with a local agent to see which discounts you may qualify for at the time of your purchase.
4. Set your budget.
First, consider your down payment, monthly income and expenses to determine the payments you’d reasonably be able to make. Then think about the total cost of car ownership, which includes gas, financing, maintenance, repair costs, insurance and depreciation. Doing the extra legwork early in your research process will help you set a realistic budget and, when you compare vehicles, determine which car is the better value overall.
5. Get your financing in order.
Dealerships usually work with preferred lenders to help buyers finance their vehicles if they aren’t paying in full. Credit unions are also a good option and should be investigated before you start negotiating with the dealer. “In addition to the better interest rates and flexible terms you often find with a credit union, we’re also a great resource when it comes to minimizing the all-in cost of your car,” said Bertha Gascon, Chief Lending Officer at Xceed Financial Credit Union. “Getting your financing handled up front lets you know what vehicles are in your budget and helps you narrow the field of vehicles.”
6. See what others have paid.
Many online sites, like TrueCar.com, Edmunds.com and KBB.com, give consumers visibility into what other buyers have paid for similarly equipped vehicles in their area. They will also show the dealer cost for that vehicle, so you can be well prepared when you walk into a dealership.
7. Look for deals and incentives.
Auto manufacturers will often list their current sales, deals and incentives on their websites and U.S. News & World Report lists the best car deals. You may also get a better deal shopping later in the day, holidays or at the end of a sales period when dealers need to “make their numbers.” August is typically a great time to buy a new vehicle because dealerships start making room for the following model year’s cars and trucks, offering end of summer deals and incentives on older models.
Are you looking for a car to accommodate your growing family? Do you have a long commute to and from work, making good fuel economy a better choice for you? Is the latest technology an absolute must-have? Is the latest safety technology important to you? These are just a few things to consider when you are looking for a new vehicle.
Showroom vehicles are often configured to showcase their best and newest features. However, if you’re looking for certain bells and whistles, don’t be afraid to stand your ground and move on to a different dealership if you can’t get a car that’s outfitted exactly as you’d like.
Buying a new vehicle can be a bit overwhelming for many people, but with a little preparation it can be a fun and rewarding experience. And at the end of it all, you’ll get to enjoy your new car and that new car smell!