6 Steps to Purchasing Your Next Vehicle

My wife and I recently needed to buy a new car. I will be honest- I hate car shopping. So far all those who are like me and hate the experience I thought I would make a 6 steps guide to help you walk through the process.

1.       Figure out what you need (and what you want)

The first step is to look out over the next few years and figure out what you will need practically. How many kids (car seats, booster seats, etc) will you need to fit comfortably? If you take a vacation will you need to fit beach chairs and coolers? Will you use the car just for commuting to work? How many miles do you expect to put on the car each month and year? Get very specific as this will help you narrow your search to a small car or larger SUV.

Once you have narrowed it down to a type (Car, SUV, Minivan) begin to look up reviews of the cars. What are other people saying about the type of car you are looking at? What models offers the top safety features and user satisfaction.

2.       What is your budget and how do you want to purchase it

The second step is to decide how much your budget is. Most people will need to finance the purchase so it may be better to have a dollar amount that you have allocated each month towards a car payment and then work backwards to find out how much you can afford. Almost all car websites now can help you calculate how much car you can afford for a given amount of monthly payment. Just Google car payment calculator.

You will also want to decide if you want to buy a new car, a used car or lease a car. Most financial experts will recommend buying a used car since these will be the least expensive option and that you should finance as little as possible. While this is the most cost effective way to buy a car it might not work for you. I for example have one car that I own outright and one that I lease. I understand that it is best to own a car outright financially but I’m willing to pay more in the long run to have a car that I never have to worry about breaking down on me (for the most part). I pay up for peace of mind. This works for our family.

3.       Search the internet for prices and deals

Once you know what car you want and how you want to buy it begin to search online for cars that fit your profile and price point. Look for dealerships that are offering sales on the type of car that you are buying or leasing and make sure to print out those offers. Check several online auto sites for your car.

4.       Find a local dealership and walk in knowing what you want: make, model, year, color, price, down payment and monthly payment

Next find a dealership that is in your area and walk in knowing what type of car that you want. Walking in knowing what you want very specifically (make, model, year, color, price, down payment and monthly payment) will help you. You won’t feel as overwhelmed. Ask to speak to a sales person about this car.

5.       Ask them if they will match any deals that you have found online

Once the sales person has made the best offer to you, take out any sales that you found online and ask if they will match this offer. Keep in mind that some of the offers may be based on your credit score so this is why it’s so important to know your credit score and make sure you take steps to improve it if needed.

6.       If leasing- ask what the return fees are (disposal fees, tires, scratches, dents, carpet, etc) mileage overage, etc

If you are leasing a vehicle make sure to ask what their return policy is. Are their disposal fees (fees the dealerships charge just for returning the car which may be waived if you lease a new vehicle). What do they charge for damages (scratches, dents, carpet, etc) what about tires? Do they have to be replaced before returning and if you don’t what will they change you.

This is not meant to be exhaustive and I am by no means an expert in car shopping…I just wanted to share the steps that I took to make better decisions and reduce car shopping stress. I hope it helps.