If you’re in the market for a new car, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve been through the car buying process a few times now and these tips for buying a new car saved us money, time, and our sanity!
The day I graduated from high school, my parents took me out to lunch at a local restaurant, one of the very few places you could get a good bowl of Cincinnati chili. The perfect place for a post-graduation lunch with your parents, well with my parents at least. I had no idea what to expect from our celebratory lunch. I figured they’d tell me they were proud of me and maybe give me a graduation gift or two. They gave my older brother who graduated two years before me a camera. I was okay with getting a camera.
When my parents handed me a gift bag containing a set of toy keys, I was confused. It took me a few minutes of them explaining that the toy keys were simply something to open, for me to get it. My parents were giving me a car for graduation. I searched high and low with my mom to find the perfect car, stick of course, because that’s what I drove back in high school.
I loved that car and so did the hundreds of people who rode in her and drove her during my college years. So many fun memories in that car. I even loved that car for the first seven years we lived in the Washington DC area. My husband took the metro, and I drove my beloved blue Shaniqua. I only had to go about five miles to work and never in traffic, so it still worked great.
When I had my son in 2013, everything changed. A 13 year old car just didn’t feel safe anymore. And driving a stick with my son in the back demanding that I give him his juice cup or another French fry was just not fun, or feasible. One month before my son was born, we bought a second car – a crossover SUV. And all was well as my husband worked from home, and I just drove the new car.
Life was good, right until we moved to Texas this summer. And my 16 year old blue baby became my husband’s
commuter car. A commuter car that shakes when it hits 70 (and Texas highways with speed limits of 70-75), that sucks to drive in Texas traffic, and that is missing everything technological that’s been invented since 2000. And that’s a heck of a lot.
So right now, we’re in the process of trying to find a new car so we can put my beloved graduation present to rest, or gift her to someone else who will appreciate her, rather than belittle her like we do. Take my advice from it and do these seven thing when looking for a new car, they’ll save you a ton of time, money, and negotiating with a dealership.
7 Tips for Buying a New Car
1 – Make a list of what’s important to you.
Think about how you use a car. Is it going to be a commuter car, a family car, a car you’re going to drive on regular road trips? Do you love having the latest technology synched up so you can go completely hands free? Do you have teenagers who need a lot of room or young kids who will keep you hands full and make a hands free entrance helpful? Are you going to need room for carseats?
Really think about what you want out of a car and what features are important. Do this first to make narrowing down the car options so much easier.
2 – Figure out your budget.
Just like when you’re buying a house, figure out what your car budget is. How much can you afford to pay each month for auto financing? If you’re not sure what type of financing you can get, check out the Capital One Auto Navigator site to apply for immediate pre-qualification (with no risk to your credit score) to give you an idea of what type of auto financing and interest rates are available to you. There’s even an awesome test drive financing option to see realistically what you could afford and what your interest rates might be depending on the length of the financing and other terms.
Don’t even look at cars that you can’t afford because I can guarantee you’ll find one you fall in love with, and you won’t love it so much when you’re stressed out trying to meet payments later. I had a friend do that once and the car he loved so much turned into something he hated within a year or two. If you’re not sure exactly what car you want but know your budget, you can search the Auto Navigator for cars near you within a particular price range to get your search started.
3 – Do your research.
There are plenty of great websites out there that will be help you compare different cars and car features. Once you’ve narrowed down your must-haves list (told you it’s like buying a house!), search through different makes and models of cars until you’ve found at least five that have generally what you’re looking for, if not more. If you can’t find anything within your budget that meets your needs, look at your must-haves list and decide which is the least important and try again.
4 – Find a dealership that has your top cars available.
Forget looking at individual dealership sites. The Capital One Auto Navigator site allows you to search for a specific make and model of a car or by a price range of car for dealerships within a certain distance of your zip code. And if you’re serious about the car buying process, not only can you search through a ton of different types of vehicles to see what you really want, you can actually get pre-qualified and apply for an auto financing all within the same website. Or your mobile device! It makes the car buying process so much easier than having to go to so many different places.
For me, I’ve driven a this car quite a bit over the past two years and it’s at the top of my list of cars to test drive when we finally pull the trigger. The Auto Navigator site allowed me to search for a specific car make and model at dealerships near my zip code with just the click of a button. Not only do I now know the dealerships that have them available, I also know their dealership listed price to give me an idea of where I want to go first.
5 – Test drive every single car.
A car might look amazing on paper, or even in pictures. It may even be comfortable when you sit in it. Don’t buy anything without driving it first. When we bought our SUV three years ago, we were actually leaning toward another car and once we drove it, we realized how much we hated the electronic console – something we wouldn’t have known without actually trying out the radio and air conditioning on our test drive. And one of the other cars wouldn’t adjust in a way that I felt comfortable seeing all of my blind spots on the road. So those two went from the top of our list to off the list completely.
6 – Get a second opinion.
Don’t buy a car all by yourself. When you’re close to making a final decision, bring a spouse, parent, or your best friend. Have them sit in the passenger seat, in the back seat, in the third row seat (if you’re like us and want that third row SUV!) and give you their honest feedback. Too often we judge a car by our experience as a driver but really you want the experience to be good throughout the car. If there’s no air conditioning in the back row and you live in Arizona, like during our experience this summer, it’s probably not the car for you. So bring along a friend and let them test out the car in the way the car would really be used.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Test drive the car for your life, not just for the road.
7 – Don’t settle.
Last but not least, once you’ve found the car you love, buy that one as long as it meets your list of must-haves and your budget. Don’t settle for a different color because the dealership doesn’t have the one you want. Don’t settle for the fabric seat covers when you really want (and can afford) leather. It’s a big purchase, so make sure it’s something you’re going to love. I know for a fact if we had gone with the bronze colored car our dealership offered us, I would’ve hated it every time I saw it. Instead, we waited a couple of days and had another dealership ship us the smoke gray that I really wanted. And I still love that color.
The Capital One Auto Navigator site makes it simple to find the car you really want with their search feature. Just put in the exact make and model and it’ll show you what inventory dealerships near you have. So much simpler than calling a bunch of dealerships in the area and who knows, they may just have that bronze color I know you want now that I mentioned it.
For those of you who have recently purchased a new (or used) car, what tips would you add to my list?