According to Statista, 43.1 million used light vehicles and 15.3 million new automobiles and light trucks were sold in the U.S. in 2021. (Source: Statista)
Now that you’ve decided to buy a car, it’s time to get out there and do it. But with so many choices available, how do you know what to look for? Here’s a guide on how to make your first-time car purchase as smooth as possible:
Budget for a Down Payment
The first step to buying a car is determining how much you can afford. The amount of money you can put toward the purchase will depend on your income, savings, and debt.
If you have good credit, it may be easier than expected to finance a new or used vehicle. However, if you’re planning on financing through an auto lender or leasing company instead of paying cash for your next car, make sure that there are no hidden fees in its contract. These fees could add up quickly and make your monthly payments unaffordable.
Look at Your Credit Score
One of the most important steps in buying a car is understanding your credit score. Your credit score is a number that represents your creditworthiness. It can be good or bad, and it’s based on what kind of history you have with paying bills.
The three main credit bureaus are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. They all have different methods of calculating your score based on information in their databases.
According to The Money Edit, Experian uses a scoring system of 0 to 999, in which anything above 881 is considered good. while Equifax uses a scoring system of 0 to 1,000, in which anything above 531 is considered good.
Research What Makes/Models Are Right for You
Before you head out to buy your first car, it’s important to research what makes and models are right for you. There are many ways to do this:
- Look up reviews on the internet. You can find many sites that review different cars, including Consumer Reports, Edmunds, and Car and Driver. These will help give you an idea of which cars have the highest safety ratings or offer the best gas mileage.
- Ask friends and relatives what they like about their cars. It might be helpful to ask them if they would buy the same vehicle again if they could go back in time. This can also give you a sense of whether or not some brands or models are worth looking into further down the line when it comes time for an upgrade.
- Talk with other potential car buyers who are shopping around too. They may have suggestions based on previous experiences with certain companies/brands/models in terms of reliability as well as cost efficiency.
Take a Test Drive
The best way to ensure you are buying the right car is by taking a test drive. Test driving is an important part of shopping for a new car because it allows you to experience how the vehicle handles, operates, and performs in real-world conditions.
You should be able to get behind the wheel of at least three different models and, ideally, drive them in different weather and road conditions during your test drives. Take note of how well the car handles turns, braking, acceleration, and even how easily it fits into tight parking spaces.
You can also examine how comfortable it feels when driving over bumps or potholes in both city and highway environments.
Get Pre-approved for a Loan
If you’ve decided to purchase a new car, you must get pre-approved for a loan. Using a preapproved loan facility is a smart move because it will tell you exactly how much money you can borrow for your car and what your monthly payments will be, which makes buying more manageable.
Many people don’t know that they can get pre-approved for a loan by talking to their bank or credit union in person or over the phone. And some may not even realize that there are other options available outside of those two resources. If you want to know if you’re eligible for pre-approval from one of these alternative lenders, contact them directly and ask about their requirements and how long it takes for them to approve applications.
If everything goes smoothly with your application process, expect an answer within 24 hours of applying online through a website or within 48 hours after filling out paper forms.
Find the Right Dealership
The right dealership can make the difference between an enjoyable and stressful experience. As per the IBIS World, there are 18,749 new car dealerships in the U.S. as of 2023, and many more used car dealerships.
While there are many dealerships to choose from, not all are reputable. You must find one that has a good reputation in your area, offers competitive financing terms and rates, and will treat you fairly throughout the process.
Pay Attention to the Car’s History
When you’re shopping for a used car, it’s important to know the vehicle’s history. A car can have a clean title and perfect condition, but if it was involved in an accident or if the previous owner had major problems with it, that can affect its value. Unfortunately, many people don’t look into this aspect of their new ride before buying.
Checking out a vehicle’s history is easy. There are several websites you can use to do so.
Ask Questions When in Doubt
The bottom line is that you should take the time to ask questions when you are unsure. The best way to do this is by bringing a friend or family member who knows about cars. They can help you navigate through all of the jargon, and they will be there with you if something goes wrong.
A good dealer will have no problem explaining everything in detail before signing on the dotted line for that new car.
We hope this article has helped you feel a little more confident about the process of buying your first car. Remember, it’s all about knowing what you want and doing your research.
- Our Checklist For Buying A New Car
- Things to consider before buying a Car
- Car Leasing or Buying: Which One to Choose? Find Out Here!
- Where You Should Go Buying Your First Car: Private Sellers vs Car Lots vs Dealerships