Understand Your Needs
You may want a truck that can cross mountains or tow 10,000 pounds. Or something that hits 60mph in under three seconds. But you don’t need it. List down the things you need from your car. Like space, safety, and entertainment features for your family. Or a small car that’s easy to drive in the city and easy to park. Find something that’s useful to you 80% of the time.
Set a Budget
You’ll mostly be taking out a loan. Ensure that you keep the monthly car expenses like payment, insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, registration, etc. to less than 20% of your take-home pay. Use an online calculator to determine how much you can comfortably afford. Do not let your car loan term extend beyond 60 months.
Find a Car
Build a target list of five vehicles based on your needs and check research them thoroughly online. Look at competing models too. Go online and use car comparison tools to see what works better for you. Be patient as you’re going to make a decision that you will have to live with for years. Once you have enough information, cut down your list from five cars to three.
Test Drive the Car
Test-drives are annoying. Getting to the dealership, listening to the salespeople, then figuring out how to leave the dealership is a real task. So do this. Set aside a morning on a weekday. Call the dealership’s internet department and schedule a test drive. Let them know that the car needs to be available on time, that you’re still comparing cars, and won’t buy on the spot. And schedule test-drives for all three cars back to back.
After the test drives are done, evaluate all three cars. If you’re not satisfied, find a new option. If your choice has been made obvious by the test drive, then it’s time to make a deal. Enjoy the process, be patient, and don’t let your feelings run away with you. Cover the practical points, and have fun with the negotiation. Remember to negotiate on the total price of the car and not the monthly payment. Ensure all the paperwork is in order. Once your financing is finalized, enjoy your brand new car.