I remember buying my first car about a decade ago. I was closing in on my senior year of high school and still had the embarrassing moments of relying on my Dad’s rusted-out van to get me from point A to point B. And those points were strictly to school and back home, so no joyriding (which there wasn’t much to do anyways with that van tipping the 220k mile mark on the odometer). While I was grateful for that glimmer of independence to arrive at school on my own terms, I still yearned for a car to call my own.
But before long, I saved up a good amount of money, and with a little extra help from my parents, I plopped down the cash on a 1988 Civic. I found it through the classifieds, and after a good 2 hours of searching and mulling over the numbers, the perfect seller was found. Throw in a few days of paperwork and negotiating, and the car was all mine. It was great. Aside from the newfound independence, the actual buying part was almost too easy.
And that’s what some first-time buyers don’t get to experience: A breezy process. For one reason or another, buying a car for the first time can be a confusing mess of emotions. Whether it’s being nervous or uncertain at the negotiation table or having too many options to consider, the experience of buying a car can be a tad stressful.
But really, it doesn’t have to be.
Shopping for a car can be as painless as you want it to be. With a few of these tips below, you’ll hopefully come out of the dealership – or wherever you buy your car – beaming with confidence.
Don’t Rush Through Everything
A mistake some of us do is buying the first car that comes to mind. Maybe it’s the bold colors of a sports car, the tantalizingly low price or you just want to get the heck out of the dealership quickly. Whatever the reasons are, the impulse buyers try and buy as if they’re trying out as a contestant for Supermarket Sweepstakes.
Instead of treating it as a marathon, take a few steps back, breathe and get prepared. Tell yourself that you might have to look at two or three or four cars before you settle on one. Not to say you can’t find the right one the first go-around (because that’s always a possibility), it’s just patience builds up your overall buying prowess.
Research and React Accordingly
An obvious part of preparation is research. It adds clarity to the unknown, and as a first-time buyer, the unknown can be overwhelming in determining one car “to rule them all”. A number of factors should be considered aside from performance and looks alone.
Like consumer reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations. You’ll quickly see exactly how much genuine, honest reviews from peers or collectively through online reviews of specific models can reinforce to you that you’re making a sound decision. Whether it’s uncovering which Acura dealer around town has more prestige or which model year Ford Mustang has the best Kelley’s Blue Book value, the main thing is you’re leaving little room for doubt by comparing and contrasting to your heart’s content.
Don’t Ignore Your Budget
If you’re financing the car and paying monthly installments based off a certain APR percentage, don’t let that cloud your “budget” judgement. Even if you opt to throw in a sizable down payment to help lessen the blow of monthly amounts, you shouldn’t feel that’s the green light to go over the top.
Everyone’s got one. And a lot of the time we get so wrapped up with getting our hands on the car, that we ignore the other costs associated. Things like insurance, registration, gas, future maintenance and repairs and so on…they all should be part of the budget. And speaking of APR’s, if you do decide to finance, make sure you obtain the best deal possible, be it through a promotional event, seasonal discount, etc.
And that’s a little overview of some key steps with buying your first car. Aside from leaving with your very own set of keys, let’s hope a little confidence and smart buying sense rides off with you.
Kyle O’Brien is an avid writer and blogger on all things concerning the automotive industry, from car specs to car reviews and more. He’s consulted for Jay Wolfe Acura, a car dealership near his hometown.