Tips For Buying A New Car

This is a stock photo of my car, the 2013 Ford Edge.  It wasn’t my first choice, but we’ll get into that in a bit.  The good thing here is that I was able to replace my car and get back on the road relatively quickly after my last car accident because the car insurance company sent me a check for almost $10,000 which went right towards my down payment. It was kind of like winning a sad lottery.

Tips For Buying A New CarFirst, I have to put a disclaimer out there.  I worked in the automotive industry for a major manufacturer for a few months shy of five years. I’ve seen/sat in/driven every major manufacturer’s cars at some point.  To me, a car is just a means of transportation.  As long as it has 4 wheels, a couple of airbags, and runs on gas, I’m pretty satisfied.  I have absolutely no loyalty to any brand.  I’m also pretty knowledgeable about competing models within each category.  I’m also aware of a rough time frame of when new designs for cars are scheduled to come out.  In other words, I’m a car salesman’s worst nightmare.  My husband? Mmm, not so much.

The last time we purchased a car I chose a Jetta, and honestly, my husband is well over six feet tall and linebacker sized.  Folding into a Jetta was easy when he was 30.  Years later, it was a much harder endeavor.  Other than knowing that we would purchase the crossover version of an SUV and having a price in mind, I didn’t care which car we purchased.  I let my husband take the lead.  Big whoops.

He was blinded by the shiny bells and whistles and whosy-whats-its.  In his defense, I could have vetoed his decision and chosen the car that’s more practical, but here is why I didn’t; this isn’t a dictatorship.  I compromised between what I thought we needed and what he wanted.  Since this car is a full 30% more expensive than I wanted to spend (holy Jeebus!), we struck a deal that he would be solely responsible for the additional purchase price.  Also, selfishly, I wanted to preserve my own sanity because I would have heard him whining about the car for the next 7 to 10 years if we hadn’t purchased it.

If you are in the market for a new car, there are a few things that you should do before shopping.

  1. Make sure that you know exactly what it is that your family needs.  How many people do you need to have room for? What’s your lifestyle? How often and in what kinds of conditions do you drive?  This can help your narrow down your search to a few cars immediately.
  2. Set a maximum budget that accounts for taxes and other fees.  Also, know how much in monthly payments your budget can support.  That way, when the shiny object that you just have to have pops up that is priced outside of your budget, you won’t be swayed, or you’ll know what you’re willing to swap out for the new must-have item.
  3. Don’t buy at the dealer things that you can purchase more cost effectively elsewhere.  I’m thinking of things like wheel locks, window tinting, cargo and trunk liners, etc.  If you are purchasing all weather mats outside of the dealer, make sure that you get one that matches your own car and fits into the mat locks of your vehicle.  Your pedal can get stuck in an all-weather mat that is not made specifically for your car if you are not careful.
  4. If you’re financing your car, shop around.  Don’t feel as if you have to use the manufacturer’s financing company.  Unless they’re desperately trying to get rid of a car or an older model year, chances are that you can get a better deal at your local bank or credit union.   Zero percent financing offers are hard to beat, but you’ll only qualify if your credit score is above 720 and if that deal is offered on the particular model that you’re buying.  I found the best rate for me (1.9%) at a Chase and not through Ford.
  5. Call your insurer to find out how much a car that you are thinking about will cost to insure.  Your new car might cost more to insure than your old car and you don’t want to be caught off guard if you have not budgeted for the extra cost.  If you are financing a car, you will most likely need to have full coverage insurance.  Remember, you current car insurance company might not be the best one for your new vehicle.  Be sure to shop around for full coverage car insurance to get the best coverage at the best rate.
  6. Don’t be afraid to test drive your potential cars as much as possible in every condition imaginable.  I especially love testing out cars in the worst possible weather.  Living on the East Coast, I’m less concerned about how my car handles in the summer than I am in the winter.  If the salesman gets annoyed, ask to work with someone else at the dealer.
  7. See what the competition is offering for a competitive car and play them against each other.  I was able to squeeze an extra $2,000 off my purchase price by telling the dealer, truthfully, that I had narrowed my final choices down to two vehicles but since their car was more expensive, I was ready to immediately put a down payment on the car if they could give me a better deal.  Deal struck!
  8. Sleep on it.  Outside of a home, a new car is the second largest purchase that most people will make.  It’s fine to take your time to decide on exactly what it is that you want.  If you’re not leasing a car, remember that this decision will stick with you (hopefully) for a long time.  Be sure to get everything that fits your needs and desires.

So, I said that my car wasn’t my first choice.  It was my third choice, but I’m fine with compromising.  It works for my family.  Hopefully, we won’t be in the market for a new time for another decade, but if we are, expect me to just as savvy about the next purchase as I have been with this one. Now, get ready to make car payments.

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13 thoughts on “Tips For Buying A New Car

  • These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to figure out exactly what your needs are before shopping for a car. My husband and I want to get a larger vehicle to better accommodate our family, so we’re looking for something with quite a few seats. We’ll definitely sit down and figure out what other things we need in a vehicle before we even start looking at potential ones to buy. Thanks for the great post!

  • I really like your tip on knowing exactly what you and your family need. That’s a really great way to help you turn down those unnecessary extra features, like you mentioned above. In my opinion, it might also be a good idea to also make a list of “wants” as well. That way, if you find a good deal on some features you’d really like with your ideal car, then you won’t have to feel bad since it isn’t on your list of needs.

    • You’re right! If you’re spending all of that money anyway, it’s nice to have some wants in there too. I wanted a winning lottery ticket in the glove box. No luck.

  • I think my favorite tip of yours was to sleep on it. Because the decision of buying a new car is really exciting, of course, you are going to want to act on your impulses. I would suggest waiting until you get a great feeling about a certain car and then going home to think about it a little more for a few days. Ask yourself the questions- is this a want of a necessity? Do I have the money to afford this? Has this car maintained good reviews? Questions like these will either drive you closer to your decision to buy it, or do the exact opposite.

  • That’s interesting to note that besides a home, your car is your next most expensive purchase. It only makes sense that yo want to make the best decision possible.After reading your list I don’t think I put enough into my decision making. I especially like the idea of testing the car in different weather situations.

  • I really like your tip for setting a maximum budget, even after taxes and other fees. That seems like a great way to make sure that you don’t spend more money than you have. My husband and I have been thinking about getting a new car for a while now so we will have to take these tips with us to the car dealer.

  • Thanks for the tip to make sure that you know what type of car your family needs before buying one. You also mention setting a maximum budget that includes fees and such. I think it’s a good idea to choose a car dealer that is local and can also do the maintenance on your car.

  • I love your advice about shopping around for insurance coverage when you buy a new car. I imagine that many insurance companies give discounts based on how long you’ve been with them, so it might seem like the best option to just stay put. It makes sense to me though that if you don’t take the time to look you will never know if there is a better or less expensive option out there.

  • I really like your point on test driving the car when there are different weather conditions. It would definitely be nice to know how a certain car drives in the rain or snow, especially if you get a lot of that in your area. Plus, knowing how the car drives in those conditions can make it easier for you to feel relaxed later on. You don’t have to worried about weather conditions once you’ve bought the car.

  • Hi Sandy,
    Big time follower of yours. Can you tell why you decided to go for a new car instead of a user car? I am planning to buy a car and I am confused between buying a new vs used cars. Newer cars seem to have a lot more safety features compared with 4 years or older models. There are no ends to investing in one’s safety but in terms of depreciation do you feel that the used cars will depreciate faster because of the recent improvements?

    Note: Last time I bought insurance from an auto dealer, I had to pay some $100-200 commission. That mistake is not happening again.

    • So this one is a tough decision and I know that this will be my LAST new car. We bought the car assuming that we would have the car for at least 10 years and we bought it with the thought that we *might* need a larger car because my husband is super tall, we’re getting older, and we had hoped to expand out family. Plus, I was also going back and forth quite a lot from New York State to Pennsylvania for my rental properties and I often drove my myself or with my sister in law. We were concerned about having a really reliable car with no issues and problems, with upgraded technology. Since I could depreciate some of the costs of the vehicle (yay tax deduction) we thought that would offset some of our costs.

      Fast forward and the car is paid off, we have a baby on the way, I’ve sold the rentals and we’ve had no issues. In another few months the car will be about five years old and it’s been great! As we expand our family it’ll be a perfect family car and it’s already been an awesome car for my small business. 🙂 I don’t think we’ll buy another new car because the need isn’t there.

      P.S. We bought a second car (hubby needed one for work and I now drive to work as well) and we bought that one used. No regrets at all.

  • I like how you pointed out that a car is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make, so you should take your time making a decision. My son is looking to buy his first car, and I know he’s a little antsy to get it over with. I think he’ll be a lot happier in the long run if he takes his time to research his options thoroughly.

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