It’s easy to purchase a vehicle, but buying a car the sensible way takes a little more effort. Whether you’re looking for a new or used auto, at a dealership or from an owner, here are some ideas to make your auto purchase as painless as possible.
Set a budget
Before you go shopping, figure out exactly how much you can afford. This is the most important part of the process. After all, car payments are a big financial commitment. Consider all your current monthly expenses, including your mortgage, utilities, food, childcare, entertainment, and tuition. Be realistic and make sure you are not spending more than you can spare.
Then, apply for loan pre-qualification to see how much you can borrow and what your payments might be. This can also speed up your approval when you find something in your price range.
Do your research
After you’ve budgeted, you can start seriously looking for a vehicle. Make a list of negotiable and non-negotiable items. You may require a specific number of seats, for example, but allow some flexibility on the mileage. Look up the average price for the car’s make, model and year. You’ll be a more informed consumer and you’ll be able to negotiate with the seller when the time comes.
And don’t take the first good deal you see — shop around. Ensure you are getting the best deal possible before signing on the dotted line. Check car lots, visit dealers, and browse an online repo sale site to get the right car, truck, van or SUV for the best price.
Making budgetary decisions beforehand allows you to stick with your plan. Most salespeople are paid on commission, so they may try to get you to upgrade or agree to extras. Stay firm on your decided limit, but keep it to yourself. If you tell the seller your maximum amount, they may go immediately to that figure and be less willing to negotiate.
Take your time and consider your options carefully. You might want to wait until you have enough money for a decent down payment, or until you find the vehicle you’re really after. Regardless of how, where or when you make your purchase, stick to your budget, be patient in your research and firm in your decisions. You’ll find that buying a car the sensible way is easier on your mind and your wallet.