Before you start car shopping, you have to make the most basic decision of all – whether to buy a brand-new car or a used car, and then make sure you know how to be smart when you go shopping. Buying a car can be an expensive proposition. Owning a car can be one too. There are many expenses car owners have to deal with, including the cost of auto insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and parking.
Think About What You Want and Need. Not what you want!
Buying a car without an idea of what features you want and need is like going to the shopping mall with a blindfold on. Beyond the basics, such as how many people you need to carry and whether you need to tow, you want to consider the importance of infotainment technology and advanced safety features. Are you the kind of buyer who is going to buy your next new car before the warranty ends, or do you plan on keeping it for a long time? If you’re the latter type of buyer, strong predicted reliability should be high on your wish list.
It’s important to think about where, when, and how you drive. If you spend a lot of time on the highway, excellent fuel efficiency may be at the top of your wish list. Drivers who encounter a lot of winter weather should consider an all-wheel-drive vehicle, while those in the Sunbelt might think about a convertible. For those seeking fun behind the wheel, getting a car with great performance or handling will put a smile on their face.
Which Is Better! To Buy or Lease?
Leasing is a popular way to get into a new car with lower monthly payments than you’ll find with a purchase. About three out of every ten vehicles leaving dealer lots today are leased, rather than purchased. When you lease a car, you’re only responsible for the amount of depreciation that is expected to occur during the time of the lease. When you buy a new car, you’re responsible for the whole price of the vehicle. Both approaches have their pluses and minuses. Our article on buying versus leasing can guide you through the decision. Many of the car-buying tips you’ll see in this article apply to both leased and purchased vehicles. For more in-depth information about leasing, hop over to our article on how leasing a car works.
Is Buying A Used Car Is Smarter Than Buying A New Car?
New car prices are higher than ever, now averaging a whopping $37,000. That’s enough to scare quite a few people outright into buying a used car. The vast majority of new car purchases are financed, which is another reason why people who understand the effects of depreciation or more likely to opt for buying a used car. Because a new car immediately drops at least 10% of its value when you drive it off the lot, most people are immediately “upside down” or “underwater” on their car loan, meaning they owe more on the loan than the car is worth. And this doesn’t change for a number of years. Total depreciation during the first year of ownership is often at least 20%, and the car continues to lose that much value every year for several more years. When you buy a great used car, you get more bang for your buck because it was the previous owner who took the big hit on depreciation.
Work with a Reputable Dealership: Some people shy away from buying a used car because they fear being taken advantage of on the price of the car, its condition, or both. But that’s the point of becoming an educated car shopper – learning what you need to know about finding great used cars. One of the smartest decisions you can make is finding a used car dealership who takes the right approach – one that focuses on newer used cars with lower mileage and in great condition, that offers a warranty on every car, that has a money-back guarantee, and that has firm up-front competitive prices so you don’t have to worry about haggling. We’re out to fix the used car shopping experience for consumers, and we’re crushing it, as you can read in our customer reviews.
Create a Budget and Get Pre-approved Financing From Independent Lenders
One of the most important things you can do before beginning to shop for your next is to really take a good look at your financial situation and decide what you can realistically afford. Few things are worse than buying a fantastic car and soon afterwards realizing you can’t afford it. To get this right, you need to account not only for the monthly car payment if you finance your purchase, but also insurance, service/repairs, and fuel. Learn the details in Creating Your Used Car Shopping Budget. Many car buyers decide on the vehicle they want and then try to wedge it into their monthly budget. Smart consumers look at their monthly budget and get a preapproved financing offer before they get anywhere near a car lot. When planning a car-buying budget, you need to look at all of your monthly expenses, including utilities, credit card payments, student loan debt, child support, insurance, and, of course, rent or mortgage payments. Consider the extra costs of owning the car as well, such as auto insurance, fuel, and the rental of a parking space if you don’t have a garage or your apartment doesn’t include a space.
What Common Mistakes To Avoid When Buying A Car
Whether it’s your first time or your fifth time buying a used car, a lot of people make one or more common mistakes that could easily be avoided. One of the biggest mistakes already mentioned is not knowing what you can really afford. Another is not having any idea what kind of car you want and/or need. Other people haven’t done any homework ahead of time to know if the price on any given car they’re looking at is a good one – you have to spend some time looking at your local market to see what similar cars are actually selling for in order to know this. Other common mistakes are not test-driving a car to see if it’s really the right choice, failing to check a vehicle history report (a reputable dealership will provide a copy for free), and not having a trusted mechanic do a thorough inspection of a car before buying it. Finally, a surprising number of people know very little about the financing process to know whether or not the financing contract they sign off on is a good one or not. A car purchase is a big deal, and is often second only to buying a house for many people, so you want to get it right.
AVOIDING BUYING BRANDED TITLES!
A branded title is one where there are known problems with a vehicle, such as a salvage title because of an accident, flood damage, and so on. These cars may seem fine when you’re looking at them, but will inevitably start having serious problems that will cost you more in the long run. There are lots of different kinds of salvage titles, and each
state has its own wording for them, so read the title carefully to see what it mentions, such as salvage, junk, rebuilt, reconstructed, non-repairable, lemon, theft recovery, or any specific kinds of damage (flood, hail, fire, etc.).
BUYING FROM A FOR SALE BY OWNER?
You can try to find the used car of your dreams for sale by its owner, but there are some drawbacks to going that route. First, you’re dealing with a complete stranger and you have no idea if they’re being honest with you, whereas a good used car dealership has a reputation with the customers it has served, and you can easily check into that reputation online. And if you do purchase a car from a private seller and decide you’re not happy with it, you have very few ways to do anything about it beyond suing the seller in small claims court, which is a huge headache.
BUYING A USED CARS FROM AN ONLINE WEBSITE?
These days you can, of course, buy your car online. But that also comes with its own set of issues and challenges. It’s almost always better when you can look the seller in the eye and see what kind of person they are. And you should always test-drive a car you’re thinking of buying. Shopping for a brand-new car online is fine because they’re all the same coming out of the factory except for color and trim level. Every single used car, however, is different depending on how its previous owner drove it and cared for it (or not). Feel free to do your “window shopping” for your next car online to get an idea of prices and what’s available, but when it comes down to making an actual purchase, you definitely want to see the car in person and test-drive it before signing on the proverbial dotted line.
WATCH OUT FOR SCAMS IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY
There are also all kinds of ways scammer take advantage of unsuspecting car shoppers, and we’ve written about each of them, including title-washing, VIN cloning, Curbstoning, odometer fraud, and the latest scam around getting people to pay for a car with prepaid gift cards. The easiest thing to do is keep this rule of thumb in mind: If a deal on a used car seems too good to be true, then it is probably exactly that – too good to be true because it’s a scam. It’s a sad state of affairs when you have to worry about all these different scams, but you can avoid all of them by working with the right used car dealership that has a great reputation for always doing things right.