Getting the Car You Need: A Guide for First-Time Buyers
Shopping for your first car? If you’ve already settled the issue of new vs. used and dealership vs. private sale, this guide will help you finish your car selection faster, but if not, you’ll need to make those decisions alongside the considerations that go into picking a car that really suits you. For some first-time buyers, there’s a dream car they’ve wanted for a while. That’s not most people, though. For many, a first car is exciting, but also unknown territory, and exploring the options becomes very important. Here are a few things you need to consider as you shop, so you can better weigh the choices in front of you. Getting the car you need can be as easy as asking yourself a few questions.
Look at your budget for fuel each week and month, and consider how much you like using your car for fun, where you tend to go, and how long your commute is. If you’re a person who really likes to stack the miles on but you don’t have a pretty wide open fuel budget, you’ll want to consider options that get you more miles out of each tank. Hybrids, efficient small cars, and all-electric models might cost a bit more up-front than their less efficient cousins, but the savings over the life of a car can be substantial, especially if you are the first owner and you plan on driving it for a long time.
Options and Features
While you might not be able to choose your exact option package with a used vehicle the way you would with a new one, you should know what you can and can’t live without. It could be the factor that helps you decide between two cars of the same model but different years or even two different models you happen to like a lot. Think about the common options you will find, and make a short list of the ones that are must-haves. Common choices include:
- Air conditioning
- Anti-lock brakes
- Passenger/rear airbags
- Aux in/MP3 integration
- Electric power steering
If you’re buying a newer used car, you might also want to consider whether you will look for some of the newer safety features from recent years, like rear cameras and backup assistance.
There is a wide range of prices you’ll find for the same models and years across dealerships. Sometimes, this reflects the amount of service done to the vehicle to prepare it for you and the length of an included warranty. Other times, it could be that one car is an upgraded model with a larger size engine. Still, there are times when the price difference doesn’t seem to make sense, which is why you need to comparison shop even if you’re pretty sure you’ve found your car. You just won’t know if you’re getting a deal worth closing if you don’t, so you could wind up overpaying.
Consider Financing Options
Many dealerships offer in-house financing, and sometimes it’s a great deal, especially when their process is to query a large number of local lenders to set you up with a loan. The best way to make sure it’s your best option is by getting a pre-approval from another lender. That way, you have your loan set up when you’re ready to buy, and if you either don’t have financing options or you don’t have ones you like, you can use that loan instead of the in-house options. This puts you back in control over your rates and monthly payment, but it does require you to make some decisions before you shop about how much you will spend, how many years you want to pay the loan, and how old the car will be.