How to purchase a car

Aug 4, 2017 | Cars

Purchasing a car, used or not, is one of the most adult things you’ll ever do. No need to press the panic button, though. You’ve got this! Whether you’re making this purchase out of need or want, we’ve outlined some steps to follow before you take the plunge.

Set goals

You decided that you need a new set of wheels. What led to this decision? Is this something you can realistically afford right now? It’s important to make sure you really are ready to make this purchase and commitment. Set your goals for how much you want to spend and carefully decide what items are on your must-list versus your lust-list. You may want to spend $60K but your budget might only allow for around $200/month — that won’t work. Plus, you can’t forget about the essentials that come with vehicle ownership — insurance, gas, stickers, maintenance. 

Get a loan pre-approval

If you’re considering getting an auto loan don’t wait to get the pre-approval from your credit union. The application won’t cost you anything and having that before getting to the dealership puts you one step ahead. That way you can see how much you can afford and at what rate, and then compare it to the dealership’s financing. More often than not you’ll find that the rates at credit unions are lower than those offered at the dealerships.


It’s time for research. Repeat after me, “I won’t ever buy a car without doing my research first.” Focus on what is important to you. Price gets all of the attention, but don’t forget to check out factors like safety features and added perks that might make your drive a little more smooth. Brand A might be more expensive and look nicer, but Brand B might have outranked Brand A in safety crash tests. Maybe brand A has more available features for purchase that you hadn’t considered, but it’ll add to the price. What matters most to you? Doing the research first will help you avoid the dreaded buyer’s remorse.

Test drive time

You wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on first, right? Same goes for your future set of wheels. The way the car handles is just as important in deciding if it’s the right one for you. You want to feel comfortable and make sure everything checks out. Should the car be everything you ever dreamed of, you can continue on your purchasing journey.

Read the fine print

Once you strike your final price with the dealership, give the fine print a good once over. Make sure you understand what you are paying for. Some dealerships may try to charge you for things you don’t need, like a final cleaning of the vehicle, a last revision, etc. This is the time to ask about extended warranties and and compare what they offer with those offered at the financial institution that gave you your pre-approval. Most times, the extended warranties offered outside of the dealership will rival what the dealer offers so it’s worth taking a look around.

Close the deal

Once you’ve agreed to everything and are ready to sign, give it one final look. This is your car, you’re allowed to take the time you need. Give the car one last check. Look for any dents, nicks or scratches. Should everything be good to go, whip out that fancy pen and John Hancock your way to your new car.

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