How to Get the Car You Want
Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with so many options and big price tags, but taking the time to plan and prepare can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your next vehicle purchase. We’re here to help you save and find the right car for you with these car buying tips.
Determine What You Can Afford
The first step when planning to buy a new vehicle, even before you start car shopping, is to determine how much you can afford. Our Auto Loan Calculators are a great tool to help you figure out what your budget looks like and create a spending plan. Don’t forget to budget for a down payment, and to factor in ongoing costs like insurance, maintenance, and even gas.
Check Your Credit
You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) or you can request your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Review your credit report for any errors, such as incorrect payment information or accounts that should not be listed. If you notice any errors, contact the credit bureaus to have the errors removed or corrected. It’s important to know your credit standing and ensure your credit report is accurate before applying for a new loan so you have the best chances of being approved.
Evaluate Your Needs
Think about how you plan to use the vehicle. There are a few things to consider that will ensure you find the right car for your needs. For example, how quickly do you need the vehicle? Is it an immediate need, or do you have more time to search before you need to buy? Having more time to take with the process can work in your favor for a few reasons: it gives you more time to find the vehicle best suited to your needs, and gives you more power when it’s time to negotiate price. Next, think about what style of vehicle will work best for your needs based on how often you’ll be driving it and what you’ll be using it for. Another thing to think about is how much space or storage you may need. Do you need room for car seats? How many people does the car need to seat comfortably? Do you need extra storage space? Taking the time to think about your needs and answer these questions will ensure you find the vehicle that’s right for you.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve considered your vehicle needs, you should have a few styles in mind and can begin looking at specific makes and models. Use online tools and resources to research information for the styles you have in mind. Look at things like gas mileage, safety ratings, special features, and pricing guides. It’s also a good idea to look at reviews for the models you’re interested in. Reviews can help you identify the pros and cons of each model, and can also uncover problems that you might not have thought about (like high road noise levels) so you can keep an eye and ear out for those things during your test drive.
Compare Your Options
Once you’ve done your research, you should have narrowed your choices down to a few models. Create a comparison chart for your top choices so you can easily track all of the qualities that matter most to you and see how each of your choices compare. Add price ranges for each vehicle so you can get a rough estimate for your budget.
Determine Your Down Payment
By this point, you should have a basic idea of your total car buying budget. The next step is to evaluate your budget and determine how much you can afford for the down payment. Remember that the larger your down payment is, the lower your monthly payment will be. A bigger down payment can also help you secure a lower interest rate. If you are able to save more for a down payment, you won’t have to take as much out of your monthly budget to make your car payments.
Plan Your Financing
You have a few different options when it comes to financing your auto loan, and just like you shop around to find the best deal on a car, it’s also important to shop around for the best deal on the car loan. Some dealerships have the option to finance through them, or you can finance the auto loan with your financial institution. An Auto Loan from Robins Financial Credit Union offers great rates, fast approval, convenient payment options, and no hidden fees.
Arrange a Test Drive
The test drive is your opportunity to get a feel for the vehicle’s performance and features, and determine if it meets your needs and expectations. The test drive is one of the most crucial steps of the car buying process, so you don’t want to skip it. During the test drive, pay special attention to the transmission, shocks, brakes, and alignment. If you aren’t sure what to look or listen for, you can invite a more experienced driver to come along with you for the test drive to help. There are other steps you can take to help you make the most of your test drive, including turning off the radio so you can listen to the car as you drive. A thorough test drive should last around 30 minutes, and include a variety of terrains, conditions, and speeds. Drive on highways, backroads, parking lots, and even interstates if you’re near enough. Pay attention to how the vehicle performs when accelerating and braking, and how it handles tight corners, parking, and backing out. Take note of visibility, positioning, and seat comfort, and check how much of that you are able to adjust. Check the seat space and cargo area to see if backseat passengers will have enough legroom and if the trunk is big enough. See if you can put seats down or remove them if needed, and go ahead and test how easy it is to make those adjustments. Once you’ve completed the test drive and testing the features, you should have a good idea of if you can see yourself in the car. If you’re unsure and need more time to decide, that’s okay. Don’t let yourself be pressured into buying a car until you’re certain.
Prepare for Negotiations
If you’ve decided on the car that’s right for you, then the time has come to negotiate price and close the deal. Based on your previous research and your budget, you should know what your preferred models are typically selling for and you should have your ideal price in mind. Rather than responding to the typical salesperson starting point of “Make me an offer,” ask them to name their price. You can start counteroffering at $1,000 below the market price you found so you have room for back and forth while still staying within your budget. You can say “My research shows the market price is…” or “I’ve gotten offers from other dealerships/sellers that are lower.” If necessary, increase your offer by $250 increments until you reach the true market price. Stay level and be ready to walk out if you feel pressured or aren’t able to reach an acceptable agreement on pricing. Ultimately, you know what you can afford and you are in control of the transaction.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Congratulate yourself on getting the car you want at a price that works for you! The only thing left to do now is to set yourself up for long-term success throughout the life of owning the vehicle. If you don’t already have an emergency savings account established, now is a great time to start one. Unplanned expenses have a way of popping up when you least expect them, and car-related expenses are certainly no exception. Having emergency savings to pull from can help cushion the blow in the event of car troubles that would otherwise throw a wrench in your budget. Another way to set yourself up for car ownership success is to determine the ways you can save on recurring auto expenses like gas and insurance. Shop around for the best price, and see if there are additional savings programs you can enroll in to take your savings even further.
Let us walk you through the car buying process and show you how you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your next vehicle purchase. With great rates, no hidden fees, and convenient payment options, our Auto Loans make buying a car easy and affordable. Our Auto Loan Calculators help you determine how much you can afford. If you’re ready to start the car buying process, apply for an auto loan online, over the phone, or request an appointment at one of our branches.
At Robins Financial Credit Union, our mission is to enhance the financial well-being of our members and community. We honor this commitment by providing educational content to help you make the most of your finances. Read our other blog articles to help you gain the financial knowledge you need to succeed.Apply Now