Buying your first car is an exciting rite of passage. However, as pros like Jeffrey Lupient will tell you, it is important to keep your feet on the ground – a car is a significant long-term investment, and you need do your research and consider your options carefully.
How much car do you need?
Although you may always have dreamed of zooming around in a sporty 2-seater, this might not be practical if you expect to have more than one passenger, or if you will be using your car for weekly bulk shopping trips to the local Costco. Similarly, while you like the idea of driving around in a fully-equipped SUV, this doesn’t necessarily make sense if you will be using your vehicle for nothing more than your daily commute to the office. Buy the car you need – too small and you will be constantly be frustrated with not being able to do what you need to do, and too large, you will be paying more for gas and insurance than you need to.
Do your research before you go to the dealership
Any of us can be overwhelmed by the sight of a room full of shiny new cars, and it is easy to lose track of budgets, practicalities and other considerations once you picture yourself behind the wheel of a beautiful car. Before you go to the dealership, make sure you have a clear sense of what you are looking for, and what you can afford. Narrow your options down to a few makes and a few models. Especially if you are a young or new driver, discuss the possibilities with your insurance broker as some vehicles tend to come with higher insurance premiums. Choose your options on the basis of things that are important to you before you go – mileage, costs of maintenance and repair, size, features, price, and whatever else you consider to be “must-haves.”
Don’t buy the first car you see, or any car the first time you see it
As with any large purchase, it is easy to get caught up in the moment only to suffer buyer’s remorse immediately after. Make a commitment to yourself that you will visit a certain number of dealers and test-drive a certain number of cars and that you will revisit your top 3 favorites. Go back to the dealers on a day when you have lots of time, and look at them again.
You can signal to a salesperson that you are a serious buyer but that you are considering a number of specific options. Of course the salesperson would like you buy the car he or she is selling, and will do their best to win your business. That said, you can make good use of their expert knowledge by coming prepared with specific questions about the advantages of their vehicle over others that you are considering. Do your research and look for potential issues on the basis of consumer reports or owner reviews – follow up on those with the salesperson. If they are unable or unwilling to answer your questions, continue looking elsewhere.
Of course, there are many other things that you should consider as your think about buying your first car, but with these tips in mind you will be off to a good start.