Are you a first time car buyer? If so, you’re probably very excited and really looking forward to the wheels. You’ll have more mobility for long trips and an easier time getting around in daily life.
Plus, you can dream about the cars. Will it be a sporty convertible or a hatchback? An SUV or a gleaming black sedan?
Along with anticipation and dreams, though, you need to be practical and make good decisions. A car is a major purchase. You want to make sure that the money you spend will reward you with a reliable and comfortable ride.
How do you ensure a good deal? Here are six pointers.
Be Realistic About Your Needs
Take some time to think about how you will use a car. Driving to and from school? Getting to your job? Driving around town for volunteering, or picking up groceries? Will it be highway driving, or stopping for traffic lights every few blocks? The answers will tell you a lot about the kind of car you need.
If you are going to drive to hockey practice, for example, you need adequate space to store your equipment. Stop-and-start driving, the kind where you stop every few blocks, uses more gas than highway driving. If your car is going to be in stop-and-start traffic, you need to be aware of the kind of gas mileage your car gets. If it’s not very good, and you drive in this kind of traffic, you’ll be shelling out big bucks for gas.
Be Realistic About What You Can Afford
Once you’ve defined what you need, price the cars you’re interested in. The cost of cars varies considerably. Even though the price of used cars has risen over the past 10 years, a used car is still cheaper than a new one. New cars lose a considerable amount of their value in the first year. If you’re on a budget, a good, reliable used car can be a cost-conscious price choice.
Think about financing as well. Will you be getting a car loan? Using your savings or parental gifts to purchase it? If you plan to get a loan, it’s worth your while to check into your credit score. If your score is very good to excellent, you should be able to get a car loan. Check with some lenders to see if you qualify.
Research the Cars
Cars are like any other large purchase. After defining what you need and can afford, research the products. Research how reliable they are. Consumer Reports and other publications issue recommendations and statistics every year, on both new and used cars.
They recommend new and used cars based on features and gas mileage. Although features and estimated gas mileage is published by car manufacturers, it’s a good idea to get the information from independent consumer-oriented sources. They crunch reliability statistics to see how often every make and model break down and how much repairs cost. They publish feedback from prior owners of used cars.
Factor in All Costs, Not Just the Price
Be sure to add up all costs when you’re deciding what a cost will cost you. Monthly and annual costs are not confined to the purchase price alone, of course. All cars need gas and oil! The car will also need regular maintenance checks. If you will be paying bridge, tunnel or highway tolls regularly, add those into the mix.
Don’t leave out insurance costs, of course. In many states, cars must be insured. Talk to at least three insurance companies about their rates so you can choose the best. This is especially important if you’re under 25 years old. Insurance prices can be steep for this age group. You’ll need an estimate of annual driving and the make and model of car. Finally, factor in registration costs, inspection costs and taxes on the first purchase.
Take a Test Drive
When you’re invited to take the car for a spin, do. Test drives are essential to see how the car actually handles. If the parking brake or gear shift is in a strange position and feels uncomfortable to operate, for example, you may want to keep looking. Drive the car long enough to see how it steers, accelerates and brakes. Drive it both in regular town traffic and on a highway.
Check out all the features on your test drive to see that they work and are easy to handle as you drive. Horn, windshield wipers, lights, turn signals. Even MP3 or CD players! Look in trunks, slam doors and yes, kick tires.
Make Sure You Get a Good Deal
There are several organizations that provide market value of cars by make, model, year and vehicle condition. It’s a very good idea to compare the price listed for your car of choice with one of these two: Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.
You simply enter information online to get the market value for either new or used cars. If there’s a substantial difference between the offering price and the price you find, try to negotiate so that the values are closer.
These six tips will ensure that you get a car that meets your needs. It will be affordable and reliable. Now, have fun!