Whether you are in the market for a brand new or gently used car, shopping around from dealership to dealership can be tiring, and if you aren’t careful, you could end up settling for a vehicle that isn’t quite what you wanted. We have some helpful hints that can keep you focused on what you need on your next car shopping trip. If you only take one thing away from this, though, remember that the more research you can do before you visit a dealership, the better.
Buying a New Car
There are plenty of advantages to buying a new car—confidence of a fresh and new vehicle, a full warranty, great financing incentives, to name a few—but they come at a price. Specifically, the price. A new car may go on sale on occasion, but by and large, they cost quite a bit more than buying a used car. Because of this, researching a brand new car is one of the most important parts of buying. Here are some things to keep an eye on:
- History of the Model—Do previous model years show serious maintenance or repair issues? Have they been fixed?
- Engine Specifications—You may not think your small car needs a high power engine, but you don’t want it to be sluggish when you put the pedal to the floor either.
- Fuel Economy—If you’re concerned about the price of your new car, then you should be just as concerned about the fuel economy. In the long term, an inefficient vehicle could cost you thousands of dollars.
- Standard Features—Many automakers advertise available features rather than standard features. Make sure you know what you’re getting.
And finally, be sure you test drive the car, truck, SUV, minivan, or crossover you’re shopping for to make sure that it meets all of your expectations.
Buying a Used Car
Used car dealers used to have one of the worst reputations around, and while there are certainly still some that are eager to pawn off a lemon on their drivers, by and large you can trust a used car dealership. If you are really unsure, visit an official dealership that also deals in used cars.
You probably already know some smart used car buying tips, but just in case, we have a few more for you:
- Kick the Tires—While literally kicking the tires isn’t a bad idea, we’re mostly just a fan of the expression. Check over the vehicle inside and out before you even consider buying it.
- Get a Second Opinion—Find a mechanic that is willing to inspect your future car to make sure it’s in as good of shape as the dealership says it is.
- Take a Test Drive—This is important for new cars, but we cannot stress it enough for used cars. The older the car is, the less you can be sure it runs well, and you need to be able to feel how it runs from the driver’s seat.
- Ask for a History Report—Many dealerships have vehicle history reports of their used cars that detail any accidents and routine maintenance. Be wary of a vehicle that doesn’t have a history report.
If you want some extra confidence, consider a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicle. A CPO model is one that meets the automaker’s requirements for excellence, comes with a vehicle history report, and has expanded warranty coverage. In short, it provides new car benefits at the price of a used car.
Be an Informed Shopper
Regardless of whether you buy new or used, be smart with your financing choices. Yes, you can get financed at the dealership—and often they have some pretty good rates—but don’t forget that you can also finance your vehicle purchase through a bank or a credit union.
Above all else, remember that you should never feel pressured to buy. If you do, politely leave the dealership and give the purchase some thought before committing.