5 Tips for First-Time Car Buyers
Buying a car is both exciting and intimidating. There’s a lot to consider, and a lot that can go wrong if you approach a dealership unprepared. Take your time with this purchase to make sure you’re driving home with the best vehicle for your budget, driving style, and personal needs.
Consider Used Vehicles
You’re excited about your first car purchase, with that new-car smell and the sleek feel of untouched leather begging you to invest in a brand new vehicle. If you’re on a budget – as most first-time car buyers are – it’s important to consider your options carefully. New cars are far more expensive than older vehicles. Your vehicle will typically lose about 10 percent of its value as soon as you drive it off the lot, and another 10 percent after the first year.
The sticker price isn’t the only expense you should consider in the new versus old debate. You’ll also pay more for insurance with a new vehicle. Even a slightly used option can save you thousands, so compare carefully as you shop.
Explore Your Financing Options
Buying a vehicle isn’t your only option when you want to drive off the lot with a car. You also have the option of leasing your vehicle at most dealerships. If you’ve never considered leasing, now is a good time to think about this choice. Leasing a vehicle is much like renting an apartment. You make monthly payments on it, but it isn’t really yours. However, unlike an apartment, you do have the option to purchase your vehicle at the end of the lease term.
If the market depreciates while you’re leasing a vehicle, you’re protected from the loss you would take on a car you own. Leasing also gives you the opportunity to upgrade to a new car every few years and stay under manufacturer warranties. Leasing is less expensive than buying a new car, but ultimately more than buying used so you want to consider carefully to determine whether this is right for you.
Do Research at Home
Don’t arrive at the dealership totally unprepared. Do your research ahead of time and identify the top three or four models that you’re interested in. It’s difficult to distinguish the finer differences between similar vehicles, like a Jetta and Passat, from what you’ll see on the lot. Start with some thorough online research, however, and you’ll know that the Passat offers more horsepower while the Jetta is lighter weight with 2.0-liter engine compared to a 1.8-liter.
If you do fall for a vehicle that you’re not familiar with, go home and look it up before you make a purchase. Sure, your smartphone is in your pocket and you can scroll through the essentials while you stand on the lot. However, there’s a lot of pressure to make a decision fast when you’re still at the dealership. It’s better to step away and consider carefully before you commit to a purchase.
Ace the Test Drive
Never purchase a vehicle without taking it out for at least one drive first. If you’ve never test driven a vehicle before, it’s worth doing a little homework. Always drive the exact model and trim that you’re interested in. If possible, drive the individual vehicle that you’re thinking of purchasing. Identify all the controls as soon as you slide behind the wheel. How does the steering wheel sit? Can you get your seat comfortable? Are the dash displays readily visible? Settle in and find everything you need before you pull out of the lot.
The best option is to test drive your vehicle alone or take it home overnight. If you’re restricted to driving with the salesperson in the car with you, stay assertive and don’t let them push you into avoiding any reasonable maneuvers. You want to see how the vehicle handles when you merge with highway traffic, turn sharp corners, stop, and park. If you can’t take the car home overnight, make a second visit after dark to see how the headlights function and whether you can see safely through window tinting.
With solid research and a level-headed approach, you can ace the car buying process. Start considering your options now and you can have your first car in no time.