Buying a first car is both exciting and intense. It’s a big expense to take on, there are tens of thousands of cars out there waiting for you, and thousands of different models. Getting a car that fits your budget and does everything you need it to do can be tricky, so here are some tips for purchasing the perfect first vehicle.
Most first time buyers are not able to purchase a new car outright with cash. This leaves financing or leasing as the main options. Leasing will get you a nicer car for the same monthly outlay but ultimately the car will not belong to you. To decide on financing, write down how much you’ll be able to afford on the repayments, and don’t forget the other costs you’ll be taking on with your car purchase – gas, maintenance, and insurance. This helps you arrive at an idea of how much you can afford to spend on a car.
2. Choose your Payment Method
Besides any monthly payment, you’ll need to consider the initial down payment. If you are on low income you may need to pay a higher down payment to afford the car you really want. The higher percentage you pay upfront the less interest you’ll need to pay over the course of your auto loan. Financing can come from your bank in the form of a car loan or in-house vehicle financing from a car dealership. Other financing options exist, but keep an eye on the percentage rate that you’ll pay and the terms of the loan.
3. Identify the Purpose of the Car
It’s tempting to consider buying that Fire Red two-seater V8 sports car, but like everyone else, it’s best for first-time car buyers to consider what they’ll really be using the car for. How many passengers will you normally need to carry? Do you have pets? How much garage or parking space can you spare? Do you often want to listen to music in your car or make calls using Bluetooth? Will you be commuting every day? Will you be driving the car in snowy weather or on uneven roads? All of these questions make a big difference to the type of car you should be aiming for.
4. Find a Number of Models That Fit You Needs
Now you know what you need, find a number of models that can perform these duties. You’ll probably have a lot of options, so try to narrow these down to three or four models that fit the bill. Then you can compare them side-by-side on the most important features for you to see which car is ultimately the best option. If you can narrow it down to one popular model then it makes searching for the new or used car for sale in your area all the easier.
5. Research Cost of Ownership
Remember that the cost of a car only begins when you drive it off the lot; there are considerations like gas and maintenance to consider. Do some sums on the price that fuel, maintenance, and insurance will cost you before you get your heart set on a particular model. An old SUV may initially seem like a steal, for example, until you factor in its poor gas mileage and increased likelihood of required repairs and ongoing maintenance.
6. Choose Between a Dealership or Private Purchase
Private purchase is a bit of a minefield and for first-time buyers it’s generally recommended to go to a respected automotive dealership. You’ll get cars that have been thoroughly checked and usually you’ll get a limited warranty even if you are purchasing a pre-owned model. The difference in price between a private purchase and a good dealership is now negligible and you’ll often be able to get more favorable financing terms if you buy through a trusted dealer.
7. Research the Going Market Rates
Do some research to see how much you should be expected to pay for the car you’ve decided upon. Prices of cars fluctuate, but having a ballpark figure of how much the car is going for on the market stands you in good stead for any price negotiation.
8. Take a Test Drive
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a single car, take a test drive! Take along a knowledgeable mechanic with you who can point out any possible issues, but concentrate on how the car feels for you. It’s better to choose another model now if the car feels too ungainly, for example, instead of having to try to sell it on in a year’s time.