Seven Tips For Purchasing Your Next Car
It’s a day you’ve been waiting for for years. It’s finally time to get rid of that old piece of junk hand me down and buy a new car. While you will forever be grateful for your grandma giving you that 1999 Toyota Camry you know it’s time for an upgrade.
While your first instinct is going to be searching the web for your dream vehicle, I insist you take a step back. You see, this is going to be a large purchase and for many of you, your largest one yet. While it is an exciting time rushing into it could cost you thousands. So before you go shake hands on that new ride, read through these seven tips on buying a vehicle.
The absolute first thing you need to do is to get pre-approved for a car loan if you plan on getting it financed. You may find your dream car at the perfect price but it means nothing if you can’t pay for it. You can get a car financed a couple different ways but I’d suggest keeping it simple and go with a local bank or the actual dealership.
Don’t rush this process and take your time to do your due diligence. No matter where you go they will all offer something a little different. What you do have to find is the best deal. The standard car loan is going to be around 60 months at an interest rate of 4-5% (as of September 2018). These numbers are going to be affected by your credit score of course. If you know nothing about your credit score then read Save Yourself Thousands By Understanding Your Credit Score first and come back to this article after.
If you are ready to get pre-qualified make sure you have everything ready on this list below. You’ll save yourself a ton of time and make your potential lender extremely happy.
- Proof of Identity – Government issued ID usually a passport or driver’s license.
- Proof of Residence – Utility bill, credit card bill, basically any bill with your name and address on it.
- Proof of Income – I’d have at least 2 months of pay stubs and 2 years of tax returns ready.
- Credit History – Your lender will be able to look this up by entering your general information as well as your social security number.
- Proof of Insurance – This won’t be needed until you actually buy the car just be ready to show it.
- New Vehicle Info – The make, model, sales price, and everything in between will be needed so they can fill out the loan application.
- Trade in Vehicle Info – If you are trading in your vehicle you’ll need to prove you have the title to it and there isn’t a lien against it.
Review the Vehicle History Report
It’s the information age and we are lucky enough to have the ability to look up the history of a vehicle simply by entering it’s VIN into our phone. A VIN is like a car’s fingerprint and anything that happens to that car will be associated with it.
For most people find the VIN by standing outside your car next to the front driver side door. If you look down at the bottom corner of the windshield you’ll see a barcode with a bunch of numbers underneath it. Those 17 letters and numbers are the vehicle’s VIN.
To pull the history on the vehicle simply go DMV.org. Once you enter the VIN, hit the button to get the CARFAX and that’s it. This is a minor task that could save you from buying a piece of junk. Once you get your report, it will tell you past owners, if there are any liens and any other title history.
The Price Tag
While you’re on the internet looking at the history of your potential new ride it’s a good idea to compare prices. The difference in the cost of a vehicle by region can be quite significant and is something you should consider. I know people who have bought vehicles in Texas and had them shipped to Kansas for thousands less than they could buy them here. If you could save thousands why wouldn’t you?
To figure out how much you should be willing to pay for a certain vehicle just do a quick search on either Kelly Blue Book or Truecar. Both sites allow you to put in as much information as you want. They even let you choose the condition of the car to drill down to a more accurate price.
Get a Pre-Purchase Inspection
Chances are you aren’t a certified mechanic and you know the bare minimum about vehicles. Don’t worry, I’m in this boat too. That’s why if I buy a vehicle I take it to someone who knows what they are looking at. Sure, CARFAX will tell you quite a bit but nothing compares to an actual human inspecting it.
Any random mechanic shop can do this for you but they will most likely charge you a small fee. Which in my eyes, is worth it. At the very minimum ask a relative that you believe has experience around vehicles or mechanical devices. This may seem excessive to some but I’d rather be safe than out a couple thousand dollars.
Think Long Term
Ask yourself what life looked like the last time you bought a car. For many of you, it has probably been over five years which is a good amount of time. A lot has changed and the next five are sure to bring on even more drastic changes. When buying a car you need to visualize what your life may be like in the next five years.
I know we don’t have a crystal ball but if you are planning on having kids why are you considering a sports car convertible? Everyone’s situation will be different but here are a few basic things to consider.
- If you’d like to move to a suburb then maybe your commute distance will increase so look for a more fuel-efficient car.
- If you plan on buying some type of toy like an ATV, boat, or camper you’ll need something that can pull it.
- If you want to live somewhere that may have harsh winter conditions like snow and ice then 4wd may be a good idea.
- Lastly, the most common, having kids will require a vehicle that can hold not only them but everything they need like a stroller.
One of the most obvious costs that people forget to consider when buying a car is the cost to maintain the car. Our minds tend to focus on the biggest number in front of us. Which in this case is, of course, the price tag. While this is important, you’d be amazed to see how much it cost to actually maintain a car.
There are a couple of different things that your car will need over its lifetime. The two most common are oil changes and new tires. For instance, my truck takes Dexos oil. What’s Dexos? No clue and I don’t care. What I do care about is that it is 25% more expensive than your average oil. This means a simple oil change is almost $75 instead of the $30 average.
While tires won’t need to be changed as often as your oil, they are much more expensive. A new set of tires can run anywhere from $500 to $1500. Even worse if you are looking at a vehicle with low profile tires, you will be replacing them more often. As well as be more susceptible to flats from potholes and other imperfections in the road. Now I’m not trying to discourage you from buying a certain vehicle. Rather help you understand there are a lot of things you need to consider.
Negotiate and Close the Deal
You’ve done all the legwork and now it is time to close the deal. This usually brings the most uncomfortable part of the whole car buying experience; negotiating. No matter if you are at a dealership or buying from a private seller there is always wiggle room to negotiate. While price should be the main focus, know that you can negotiate many other things especially at a dealership.
If you think you’ve gotten them as low as they can go in price ask them what else they can do for you. Most of these people are getting paid off commission so it’s important for them to close the deal. Some examples are free oil changes for a year or free car washes. I even know someone who got the floor mats upgraded from the regular carpet to rubber. If you think I’m pinching pennies here you’re absolutely right. I’m all about getting the most bang for my buck and since you’re reading my blog you have at least a hint of that in you as well.
Wrapping it Up
The very last thing I beg you to do is read over the contract again. Please please please do this and ask as many questions as you need until you fully understand everything. You are the customer here. It’s your money so there is no such thing as a dumb question.
You should now be ready to make an educated purchase and have a solid vehicle for many years. Remember, don’t rush it. Take the time to find a vehicle you will enjoy at the right price. If you follow these steps, you can avoid the regret of a traumatic car buying experience.