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How to Buy Your First Car: Tips for First Time Buyers

  Car Purchase Action

Be like this guy. Buy a 3-car.

Getty Images

So you're done with taking Lyfts and beating up friends. It's time to buy a new car, and that's a pretty big deal.

Apart from a home, buying a car is the biggest money flow most of us will ever encounter. Never fear, my friends. This guide is intended to help make the process much less stressful.

Set (and stick to) your budget.

Before you do anything, you should choose a budget. A good rule of thumb is to keep the purchase at or below 20 percent of your annual salary. So, if you make $ 65,000 a year, your maximum budget is $ 1

3,000. This number – and what's important to you (that's the next one) – determines significantly whether you buy a new or a used car, two completely different processes.

If you've set your budget, stick to it . If you're buying a new car buyer and planning to fund your newborn, many sellers will encourage you to exceed your budget by trying to focus on monthly payments instead of the bottom line. For some buyers, the justification works, but do not forget the total cost of the purchase.

You are prepared. You will not back off. You can do it.

Read more: Buy the best dashcam for 2019 by knowing its main features.

What is important to you?

You may want a vehicle with excellent mileage for your long journey. Live in the mountains? You will probably want something with four-wheel drive – maybe even an SUV. If you know that you form carpools, you need a car with at least four seats. Make a must-have and nice-to-have list. It might look like this:

Auto needs against wants

needs wants
four-wheel drive sunroof
Large trunk Adaptive cruise control
Good gas mileage Android Car / Apple CarPlay

The new four-wheel drive Volkswagen Atlas manages to do it in the snow, but it may be too much for your requirements.

Jon Wong / Roadshow

What is important not for you?

For people who live in warmer climates, all-wheel drive is not essential. A navigation system may be cool, but you'll probably only use your phone anyway. And luxury features like massage seats and a heated steering wheel? Super nice, of course, but pick up the scratch for a more valuable purchase. These incremental but expensive features can quickly replace your budget.

If you're looking for new or used cars in a dealership, it's even easier to engage in unnecessary functions. Here is the reason: dealers do not have every combination of functions for each car. In fact, you might only be offered models with features you do not need. In this case, you have two options:

  • Request the dealership to order the model with the actual desired configurations.
  • Determine if the car dealership can transfer the right car to its parking space.

These options often mean that you are ordering the model I will have to wait a few days to a week to get your car, so be prepared for the wait. You may be excited while on the move, which could lead you to drive away with a model that exceeds your requirements.


Now that you've set your budget and requirements, it's time to narrow down your choices with comparisons and reviews. Go for a top 3 list of configuration details.

Before you go to a dealer, take time to find out about the many functions available, especially the non-mechanical ones. These new features are complicated and sometimes confusing. And although they can offer a great deal of added value (especially in terms of safety), they are not always necessary. You do not have to know as much as a car salesman, but you should not be surprised by much.

Here at Roadshow there are many great reviews. We have many words Videos and images that you can browse to narrow your search.

test drive. And then again a test drive

Drive out of love for the clutch pedal the car you are thinking of. It may have all the features you want but is incredibly uncomfortable. The only way to know for sure is to test it before you buy it. Most retailers have fixed routes to receive customers. If you know the area, do not hesitate to ask the dealer if you can choose your own route, especially one that combines highway and street trips.

Find Out What Others Pay

If you know how much others have paid for the car you want, you become a self-confident negotiator. TrueCar is a great website to see what people have paid for a new car. It's easier to negotiate if you have a connection to what others are paying for. So do not be afraid to go shopping with a few retailers, and then choose the one with the best offer.

Consider financing.

If you do not buy the car directly, you probably need to finance your purchase. This means that you will spend the total cost of the vehicle over a long period of time, usually two to four years. Often, car dealerships offer zero percent funding, which means you do not have to pay interest on your loan. In this great calculator you can read how much car you can afford.

If no zero-percent financing offers are offered and you are in a hurry, buy a good interest rate and read the fine print. These great prizes may only apply to people with excellent credit ratings or are just the introductory price – a car loan that starts at 1.9 percent in the first year but then rises to 13 percent is not a good deal. A car loan with an interest rate of 3 percent or less is good. However, since the interest rate is not zero percent, you should consider investing money to lower the overall rate of return. Here's an example of how much you can save:

Auto Payment Compare

Car Price ($) Deposit ($) Interest Rate (%) Runtime (months)) Total cost (USD)
25,000 0 02.05 48 26.297
25000 10000 02.05 48 25.778

Do not be afraid to go away

I was very close to buying a used Porsche Boxster from a dealer, but was worried about maintenance and insurance costs. When the seller pushed the phone in my direction and asked to call Geico, I went out. He was just too pushy.

The dealership will probably try to sell you an extended warranty. But keep in mind that new cars already have a bumper-to-bumper warranty, typically three to five years or between 36,000 and 50,000 miles. Hyundai and Kia provide a 10-year / 100,000-mile warranty on their powertrains, including the engine and transmission. I'm not a fan of warranty extensions, but if you plan to keep your car for a long time or cover many miles, it may be worth it. In some cases, a warranty that goes beyond your ownership of the vehicle can add value when resold. Just make sure that the vehicle is transferable.

Buying a used car

If your budget does not allow you to buy a new car within your price range, you should consider purchasing a "used" car. Many are available from retailers, so all tips above apply.

As a car expert, I can tell you: Used is often the best option. Because if you buy a new car, it will be greatly impaired the moment you leave the lot. If you buy used, someone else has taken the hit, even if the car is only a few years old.

I buy all my cars needed. My last purchase was about Craigslist, but there are many different websites. You can buy a car on eBay or try CarsDirect or AutoTrader. With Shift, you can search and test drive cars on the website, as you probably do not have a car to get there. There are also special sites like Bring a Trailer for Classics or The Samba for all your vintage VW needs.

For an idea of ​​how much you should pay for, try Kelley Blue Book or NADAGuides. With both, you can search for a specific brand and model, and include variables such as configurations and mileage.

If you've found your dream car and taken a test drive (because you did that, right?), It's time for CYA or Cover Your Ass. Regardless of the dealer or private party, the owner should be able to To tell you the maintenance history of the car, any mechanical issues or quirks, if the car had an accident, and the number of previous owners.

  Garage mechanic repair garage "height =" 0 "width =" 370 "data-original =" https://cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/KqG0hvt2RWLtMz2u8hKv-gzhpsM=/370x0/2017/05/31/ 6e8f75b0-b933-4c4f-a8a6- 355258c925b1 / Panasonics-535654513.jpg

Make sure your mechanic has your new car within 30 days checked. [19659003] Getty Images

Then take this information and check it. Get the CarFax report to find the accident history, mileage and title history. Many dealers provide this for free. Otherwise, it's the best $ 40 you can spend.

Do not make the mistake of signing anything that says "as is". Even though you buy a used car, you should have 30 days to return the car if something goes drastically wrong or if your mechanic tells you it's a cash mine.

An inspection by your mechanic costs about $ 100 and should include at least the following:

  • A general visual inspection for rust and other body bugaboos.
  • Check for worn suspension parts and leaking seals.
  • Evaluation of wear on belts.
  • Check the spark plug wires.
  • Checking the brakes.
  • Visual inspection of the electrical system.
  • Checking the tire quality.

I can not emphasize the last bullet point enough. The tires may look good, but if they are older than five years, the rubber components have deteriorated, which could have fatal consequences.

Certified Used Programs

If you have the extra money or are not a big financial planner and would find it easier to expect the same monthly payment instead of having to take up the occasional repair bill, consider buying a car via a Automaker certified used car program. It will cost you more, but it may be worthwhile in some cases, especially for more complex models. If nothing else, it's a potentially good shot. If you are considering a CPO program car, be sure to read the fine print. These programs vary greatly in terms of cost, mileage and runtime. Many include deductibles and / or exclusions and exceptions that are worth paying close attention to.

Pro Tip: Do not forget the car insurance.

It may seem obvious, but do not forget to call your insurance company and get an offer before signing your dream trip, regardless of whether it's brand new, used or a bargain-basement hooptie. Your preferred carrier can make you an offer based on the year, brand and model of your intended purchase. For an even more accurate quote, get the FIN for the exact vehicle you are considering. Passing this information to your car insurance agent will give you the most accurate offer. Deviations due to optional safety equipment, engine specifications, etc. are considered.

Before You Go …

Despite all that Practical Advice, the best tip I can give is to buy what you love. Life is too short to drive something that you do not necessarily love. What if it is not practical? If you want the convertible and can afford it, then do it! Live in the city, but if you always wanted to have a Ford F-150 Raptor, I say, "Hell with you!" Life is too short to drive a boring car.

Originally published on June 2, 2017.

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