The links in this post may contain affiliate links
This is a sponsored post, however, all opinions are mine.
Finding The Right Car For You
Are you looking for a new car (or your very first car) and feel overwhelmed with the vast array of choices in the market? There are many factors to consider and many questions to ask yourself before even heading to the dealership to browse. This post will provide tips and advice for car buyers looking to identify the right vehicle for their budget and lifestyle.
Things To Consider Initially
First, you’ll want to take into consideration how much you can afford. Make sure you have a budget in mind to help you stay focused on cars you can truly afford. A good rule of thumb that I’ve heard from multiple sources is that your car payments should not exceed 20% of your monthly net pay (or in other words, the total value of all your vehicles should not be more than half of your annual income). How much money can you put down on the vehicle? Remember that the bigger the down payment, the lower your monthly payments will be. Such websites as Cars.com have handy tools that can help you estimate your payments and how much you can afford.
Next, consider your wants and (more importantly) your needs. This includes the many car features that are available to you. Here is a list I’ve compiled that outlines such considerations:
Type of car
Sedan, minivan, compact car, convertible, coupe, etc.
Make and model
Needs (Focus on these)
Size / Space – How many passengers will you typically have?
Transport / Cargo
Manual vs. Automatic transmission
Features (What are your “must haves“?)
Finally, determine whether you want to buy a new car or a used car. Buying a used car will save you money and it can be hard to tell the difference between a new one if there’s not a ton of miles on it. Consider, too, whether you want to lease or buy (this has been a very hot topic the past few years). A lease allows you to put a more expensive vehicle in your driveway for less money every few years. However, if you tend to keep your car until it quits, leasing isn’t probably your best bet. Owning gives you more flexibility and usually makes more financial sense when interest rates are low.
Research, Research, Research
Now that you have a good idea of your budget and needs, and may even have a particular vehicle in mind, it’s time to do some research and planning. This is a critical step in the process (especially the pricing portion) and much of the information can be found online. Without research, your vehicle purchase is more likely to lead to buyer’s remorse.
Before visiting the dealership, make sure you know the market price of the vehicle(s) you are interested in. Both Kelley Blue Book and Truecar.com provide such information, offering a fair market value price and price range for a new or used car based on what others have paid. Not knowing this information can be an expensive mistake.
Read what the experts and current owners have to say about a certain vehicle to discover it’s performance strengths and how it compares to others in it class. J.D. Power and Cars.com offer such reviews and ratings.
Many websites offer side-by-side comparisons that are also helpful in choosing the right car that meets your needs.
Search the Internet, call around, and visit local dealerships to explore your options that are in your local area. Be sure to compare quotes from multiple dealerships.
How Cars.com Can Help You Research and More
Cars.com is an excellent resource to use when looking for a vehicle, as they offer a ton of information to help make the right choice. A comprehensive array of research tools and services can be found on their website such as the following:
Find cars for sale/trade and sell/trade your own – Cars.com has a wide selection of new and used cars available for you to purchase. You can even find a connected dealer near you, along with contact information and reviews. Cars.com gives you free, no-obligation new car quotes from up to 3 local car dealers. If you’re selling your own vehicle, they help you to find its current value and offer valuable advice on how to sell it.
Research car models – Even if you’re just starting your search, you can scroll down to “Browse Models” on the main page (or here) to view models by body style (SUV, sedan, convertible, etc.), make, price, and more. Cars.com also offers side by side comparisons where you can see how cars compare to one another.
Service and repair – Get a service estimate, find service centers, get repair/maintenance advice, and find information on the latest recalls.
Expert and consumer car reviews – Cars.com has the largest database of consumer reviews in the car industry. There are also bias free expert reviews on new 2017 models as well as on models dating back many years.
Videos and reviews – The “Videos & Reviews” section is one of the best sections of the website. Watching the video reviews gives you a virtual dealership experience in a way, showing you the all of features both inside and outside of the car you are interested in.
You’ve done your research and narrowed down your choices. It’s now time for a test drive.
Test driving a car gives you “peace of mind” that you’re making the right decision. Doing so allows you to test out all of the features and get a good “feel” for how the car performs.
You will most likely be driving this vehicle daily, so it’s important that it fits your lifestyle and that you’re comfortable in it.
(5) Other Money Saving Tips
Besides doing your research ahead of time, here are a few other ways to save money in the car buying process:
1] Pay in cash (if you can)
This is certainly not an option for everybody, but if you can pay cash in full you will eliminate monthly interest costs and finance fees. Monthly car payments are also eliminated. Owing money on a car only makes it more expensive, with the value of your car only going down once you drive it off the lot.
You may also be able to get significant discounts by paying in cash, as well as more bargaining power at the dealership.
Month – August is said to be the best month to buy a car, as the highest discounts are offered and incentives are increased. Honorable mention goes to December, when dealerships offer year-end discounts try to get rid of last year’s inventory to make way for new models.
Day of the week – According to TrueCar.com, the best day of the week to buy a car is Sunday, when there is lower consumer demand and higher incentive for dealerships to close out the week with strong sales.
Other – Salespeople may be more willing to offer better deals the last few days of the month, as they work on commission and often get bonuses for the number of vehicles they sell in a month.
3] Visit multiple dealerships
Especially if you’re looking at used cars, be sure to visit at least 3 to 4 different dealerships to see what financing, pricing, and service they have to offer. Don’t be afraid to use dealership competition to your advantage. With the rise of online sales, there’s no longer a need to spend valuable time haggling at a dealership.
4] Buy used
Buying a used car comes down to two main advantages: less depreciation and lower insurance rates.
As mentioned previously, cars lose value as soon as they drive off the lot. Within the first year, some new models can even lose 20-40% in their value.
Also, a vehicle that is worth less money costs less to insure.
Overall, going the used car route is going to save you thousands of dollars with the elimination of fees, subsequent costs, and depreciation.
5] Don’t negotiate based on monthly payment
One question you are bound to be asked by a salesperson is “How much are you looking to pay per month?” This is because they want to set the price based on the maximum monthly payment that you are willing to pay and will adjust this price to get you the exact monthly payment you’re looking for. However, make sure you negotiate the price, not the car payment!
Best of luck! * Comment below with what things have made your past car buying experiences enjoyable and less stressful *