5 Tips for Buying a New Car

From make and model to best time to buy

Looking for a new vehicle? Use these tips to make buying a new car a snap.

1. Make and Model

Make a list of vehicles you've seen on the road that you like or have read are recommended vehicles. These questions can help you decide which makes and models to choose:

  • Are you looking for something with ample storage room for family items or sports equipment?
  • Or, is a fuel-efficient, compact vehicle more your style?
  • Do you want something that makes you feel like the king or queen of the road?
  • Or, are you looking for something that will allow the wind to blow through your hair?

It's your car. You're going to drive it. Look for a car that meets your needs and makes it fun to drive.

2. Spending and Expenses

Depending on the kind of car you want, you can spend a little or a lot. Before you finalize your list, consider your budget and set a spending limit based on your ability to pay now and in the future.

  • How much can you afford to spend?
  • Are you putting money down?
  • What monthly payment are you prepared to make?
  • Are there any amenities you consider "must haves"?
  • Will your car insurance rates change? Hint: You can call us to get an estimate. (It's important to factor auto insurance payments into your decision, too.)

Research the value of your current vehicle and decide whether you will trade it in or sell it privately. What you receive for a trade-in may differ from a private sale, which could affect your down payment and/or car payments.

3. The Buyer Experience

Do some digging on car dealerships in your area. Arm yourself with knowledge that'll help you through the process of buying a new car, such as:

  • Does the dealership advertise the lowest price? Or, will they negotiate?
  • Will they incorporate any vehicle maintenance with the purchase of a new or used car?
  • Does the dealership offer auto loans/financing? What terms do they currently offer?
  • Would you rather lease the car versus buying it?

If you are looking to purchase through a private party, use online sites to check the seller's rating or find whether the seller has ever been subject to complaints about items he or she has sold. Ask for details about the vehicle's maintenance history and take it for a test drive in different kinds of weather, road and traffic conditions. For more information on buying a car through a private party, visit the Federal Trade Commission here: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0055-buying-used-car

4. Research and Resources

The advent of the Internet has equipped consumers with countless resources to encourage responsibility. A quick online search produces many results with good advice on buying a new car, including taking the time to investigate incentives and rebates geared toward first-time car buyers.

There are a number of websites dedicated to cars and the process of purchasing a new one. Explore these websites with caution to ensure they are reputable.

5. Best Time to Buy

Only you can decide on the best time to buy a new vehicle. However, there are certain times that are better times to buy a car, like at the end of summer, at the month's end when inventory is assessed, or at the close of the model year—even the end of the day—if you have your finances prearranged and know which car you'd like.

If you decide that your current car meets your needs, there are multiple ways to upgrade without spending too much money. For example, a good tune up and a new electronic device (like a new stereo or remote car start) go a long way toward making your current car feel new again.

If you do add any after-factory accessories or custom parts and equipment, be sure to contact your insurance company to ensure you have adequate coverage for the higher value.