Purchasing your first car can be a huge financial decision. There a hundreds of models to choose from, and it can be overwhelming trying to decide which car to get. Luckily for you, we've compiled a list of 5 simple steps that you can take to ensure your first car is the right one for you.
#1 Understand what you need rather than what you want
Do you need a car to get to class or work every day, or just for weekend adventures? What’s the weather like where you live—snowy, rainy or hot? Evaluate your lifestyle and the driving conditions you face most often. Do your research: Learn about different features and options, and how they might affect a car’s price.
#2 Determine Your Budget
Take a realistic look at your finances, too. That includes not just the purchase price but budgeting for use and care of your future car, including maintenance, insurance, gas, repairs, and parking. Learn more about the true cost of owning a car.
#3 Research, research, and do more research!
Shopping for your first car is a lot easier for you than it was for your parents. The Internet offers a wealth of sellers beyond your local area (who may ship cars to your area, which may come with a fee), which can mean more choices in your price range. You can research and narrow down the choices by looking at online auto rankings in categories like safety or auto type (such as SUVs, hybrids). Learn more about how to shop for—and even finance—a car online.
#4 Take a test drive
Once you’ve identified a few cars that might fit your needs and budget, take each for a test drive to see how you feel in it and how it performs. Try to drive all the cars you’re considering on the same day so you can easily compare them. It’s a good idea to call ahead to make appointments to structure the day—and it helps you gauge the customer service at each dealership.
#5 Close the deal!
You’ve done your research, you know what you want and you have your financing in place. When it’s time to negotiate the deal, you’re in control, and can focus on reading your contract carefully. Before you sign, though, be sure you understand the terms of any financing and warranty agreements.
After you drive off, make sure you never miss a car payment by signing up for automatic bill payment—so you can focus on your next destination.