Whether you’re reading this as a teenager who’s just passed their test, or you’ve simply put it off until you’re well into adulthood, buying your first car can be an exceedingly nerve-wracking process. Getting a great deal on your first car isn’t easy, however. Because it’s such a big investment, I’m sure you want to take steps to ensure you’re doing it well! Here, we’ll go over some of the most important advice I can give to any first-time car buyer. Whatever your budget, using these as a guide will ensure you get the best possible option for your money!
Set Out a Realistic Budget
Whenever you’re planning to make any kind of big purchase, you should always start with an affordable, realistic budget in mind. These days, your budget for a car should be based on what you can realistically afford per month. Ideally, you’ll be able to pay cash, but in most cases that simply isn’t going to be practical. If you want a new car (or at least, on the newer end of the scale), then you’re going to have to leverage some kind of financing option. Take a look at your cost of living, covering all the essentials like food and rent, as well as any money you regularly pay for recreation, savings etc. After that, the remainder is your car budget.
Establish Your Needs
Now that you’re finally in a position to buy your first car, it can be easy to get over-excited, let it all go to your head, and make some pretty rash decisions. Before you settle on one model, make sure you’re taking the time to seriously consider what you need a car for. That convertible in the window of the Porsche garage you keep passing may look gorgeous, but is it really going to be a good choice for day-to-day transportation? Similarly, you might think that you need a lumbering great minivan or SUV, but may find that once you have it you’re not going to get all that much use out of it. Obviously, it’s your decision at the end of the day, but make sure you’re looking past the mark-up price of the car. With the recurring cost of fuel, insurance, and parking in some cities, it’s a big mistake to buy anything you don’t need.
Prioritize Your Wants and Do Some Research
While the first car you buy is by no means going to be the only vehicle you ever own, it’s still important to consider your main wants. Staying within budget, that is! After doing a little reading on the candidates or trims you’re thinking of, you may find that what you really want from your first car is a little over what you were planning to spend. If this is down to the practical features of the car, then you have my permission to adjust your budget! It’s much better to cut back on leisure activities or borrow more money and be able to drive the car you like than to save a little money and have to live with buyer’s remorse for years after!
Find a Convenient, Trusted Dealer
Car sales reps, among many other professions, get a really bad rap. Due to this, buying a car for the first time can feel akin to getting surgery! Sure, it’s the salesman’s job is to make money for the dealership. However, the majority aren’t going to use all kinds of sinister, underhand tactics and cheat you into paying way too much! Most of getting a good price comes down to research. It’s 2017, and the newer models of car on the market have never been more reliable. However, that doesn’t mean you can guarantee a good purchase without doing proper research. By this stage, you’ve probably researched various models, and will have narrowed your search down to just a few cars. When you’re weighing up your choices here, compare the practical dealer locations, and visit more than one to get a feel for them. You can tell a lot about the kind of deal you’re going to get simply by gauging the showroom environment. If you visit a dealership and immediately see the majority of the sales staff sitting around and chatting, then my advice is to avoid it!
Here’s the fun part! Although online resources can certainly teach you a lot about a car, there’s nothing which can solidify your choice quite like taking the car for a spin. Although a car may look gorgeous and have great reviews, there are all kinds of variables which will determine how you feel behind the wheel. The seat height, how much you can adjust the steering wheel, the sensitivity of the wheel and the pedals, the layout of the controls and outward visibility, will all have an impact on your driving experience. Don’t just take it around the block; try to find a dealership that allows test drives of around 20 minutes. This is ample time to decide whether or not the vehicle is for you. One of the worst things that can happen is that you fall in love with a certain model, then get behind the wheel and feel totally out of your depth!
Know Your Options and Secure Financing
One of the great things about buying your first car in 2017 is the massive range of financing sources and information you have access to. Financing for cars has become exceedingly popular in recent decades, and you’ll have no issue finding an option that works for you. You can go to the dealership and discuss the options they have on offer, talk to your bank or credit union, or research loan options through an online resource such as Lending Tree. The bad news is this: no matter where you get the money from, it’s more or less certain to hinge on your credit history. Seen as you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you’re fairly young, and have a marginal credit history or none at all! The last thing you want is to put your purchase in the hands of an F&I rep, so do anything you can to give yourself more wiggling room. Talk to someone at your insurer, bank or credit union, and try to line up a good financing plan well in advance.
Determine a Fair Price
So, you’ve taken the time to establish what you can practically afford, and the kind of features you’re going to want in your first car. You’re almost there! Your next step is figuring out a fair price, in order to make sure there’s no chance of you getting screwed over by a dealership. Fortunately, it’s now easier to figure out what you should be paying for a car than ever before. All you really need to do is go online, and look at the listings for dealerships in your local area. Remember that asking prices can vary greatly from place to place, so don’t get misled by listings from somewhere on the other side of the country. You may even want to talk to a local credit union for some guidance. They’ll usually be able to give you a good ballpark figure, and may even have contacts in local showrooms. If you’re going to try and leverage a referral though, make sure you get one before taking a walk around any showroom with another salesman. Most dealership sales reps are paid by commission, which is notoriously small. You’ll not only be wasting their time, but also shaving money off of their paycheque. If you’re going to use a referral, start with one!