How To Buy Your First Car The Smart Way

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Buying your first car can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you’re young. There’s so much to think about, and so many ways to prepare. Making sure your finances are in good shape – as well as your credit score – is top priority, but there are other considerations as well, such as factoring in how many miles you’ll put on the car in a given week, what the gas mileage is like, and any safety features you’ll want.

If you’ve been thinking about buying a car, chances are you’ve already sat down and worked out the numbers. But keep in mind that the down payment is just the beginning of your expenses; you’ll also need to make sure you can make the car and insurance payments and cover gas each month without digging into your grocery money. Having a good lump sum to put down on a car is a good idea – at least 20% of the total, but the more, the better, as it will lower your monthly payments – and it will be necessary to take a look at your finances to make sure you’ll be able to afford any unforeseen maintenance issues.

Here are some of the best tips on the best ways to go about buying your first car.

Take a partner

It’s a good idea to bring someone along with you when you’re looking for a new car. A parent, grandparent, or close friend who has experience dealing with the process is best, as they can help you avoid making a financial mistake or getting taken advantage of by a salesperson who wants to put you in the most expensive car on the lot.

Plan well

When you have your down payment saved, do some research online to figure out what the best car is for your needs. If you have children, look for vehicles with the best safety features. If you have a long commute back and forth every day, you’ll want a car that gets great gas mileage and can handle a lot of wear and tear.

If you’ll be buying a used car, check out Carfax to get information on who the previous owners were and whether or not it’s ever been in an accident. This can save you a lot of grief down the road. It’s also worth having a mechanic’s shop take a look at the car you are considering. They can give it a thorough once-over to see if there are any glaring issues.

Be sure to plan your visit to a car lot carefully. You’ll be more likely to score a better deal if you go at the end of the month, when salespeople need to meet their quotas, or at the end of the year when the lot is looking to meet their annual goal. The end of summer/beginning of fall is also a great time to go car shopping, because this is when dealerships unveil new models and are cleaning out their inventory of older ones.

Make sure you understand the terms

Even if you have a good-sized down payment, you still might need to finance the rest of the amount. As long as your credit score – or your co-signer’s – is at least a 680, you should be able to get good terms on your loan. However, it’s still important that you understand all the legalese in the documents before you leave. Ask questions if you need to, but don’t leave the lot until you’re sure you know what you’re getting into.

This post was written by: Erika Greenberg

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