Shopping for a new (to you) car can be fun, but it can also be stressful. Regardless of whether you’re purchasing a used car or a new car, it’s a lot of money for a single purchase - fraught with risks and roadblocks. Making a mistake can cause financial problems, stress, and even endanger your life.
Determine the Type of Car You Need
Before even thinking of anything else, know what you need the vehicle for so that you can choose the right style of car. For example, if you have children who need car seats, you need a car that is big enough to accommodate those seats. If you need to haul things, you need a car that can handle a load. If you’re just zipping along to town and back for work, you don’t need as much car.
Set a Realistic Budget
Knowing the type of car that you want, take a quick look at online sales for these types of cars to find out the "going rate" for them. Checking the Kelly Blue Book for the value of a used car is also helpful for figuring out this information. Once you know the budget, try to save that amount in cash to get the best deal.
Never Buy a Brand-New Car
There is no real point in buying a new car. The moment you drive it off the lot, it becomes "used" and you cannot get as much out of it. Buying a used car can save you thousands of dollars, but you’ll end up with the same amount of use from it. Buying a car that is one or two years old is usually the sweet spot.
Understand Maintenance Costs
Every choice will have a different average upkeep cost. Find out what maintenance is required per the warranty information, plus what is recommended by the manufacturer, to work out what your costs for keeping the vehicle in tip-top shape is. If you do the repairs and keep it in shape, the car will last longer - thus saving you more money.
Know What It Will Cost You for Insurance
Different vehicles can have very different costs to keep them insured. Don’t call an insurance company that does not have a good record. Getting the "cheapest" insurance isn’t the same as getting the least expensive. If the insurance company has a bad record, it won’t help you in the long run.
Check the Mileage Information
One factor in operating costs is knowing how much gas mileage it gets if you’re not getting an electric vehicle. And even if you are getting an electric vehicle, make sure you know the cost of battery replacement and whether you’ll have issues charging it up where you live and where you want to travel.
Check Consumer Reports for Information
Once you have narrowed down the vehicles you like and can afford, be sure to check Consumer Reports for information about the vehicle. One caution here is that any three-cylinder vehicle will not gain a very good rating with them, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad vehicle; it still depends on how it’ll be used.
Get the Carfax
Since you’re buying a used car, knowing the information about the car is helpful. By using Carfax and entering the vehicle identification number (VIN), you can find out if that car has been in any accidents or has other problems.
Choosing the right type of car for your budget takes time. Don’t be in a rush or get tired of looking. When you get tired of looking is when you could make a significant financial mistake based on wants and desires instead of needs, and that can be a recipe for disaster.