Being organized can help in many life events, including the process of buying a car. If you are planning to buy a car, being prepared and knowing exactly what you’re looking for and your price range can simplify the process. I recently purchased a used vehicle, and here are the steps I took to make the process go smoothly:
Research The Type of Vehicle You Want
As my current car was getting older, I knew it would be time to replace it soon. I spent time looking online at reviews of many types of vehicles. I also spent more time just looking at the types and sizes of vehicles on the road and in parking lots. When it was time to begin the test-driving process, I had already narrowed it down to just four makes and models that I was interested in trying.
Determine Your Price Range
If you have saved up to pay in full, or saved up a down-payment, you probably have an idea of what you want to spend on a vehicle. You can also use loan estimator calculators on dealership websites or your bank’s website. Before I even went to a dealership, I knew my realistic price range. Your price range can greatly impact the age, mileage, and options of your vehicle.
Test Drive The Makes and Models You’re Interested In
Go to a dealership and explain that you’re trying to decide between a small number of makes and models before you buy. Search online first to check the dealership’s inventory to make sure they have the vehicles you want to try. Test drive each model, and then narrow it down to your one or two favorites.
Further Research The Model(s) You’ve Chosen
Once I narrowed my choice down to one particular model of vehicle, I further researched the trim options, and determined the model years I’d like, the body type, and the accessories I wanted to have in this vehicle.
Do an Internet Search for the Vehicle You’ve Chosen
Once everything was narrowed down to the make, model, year, trim, body type, transmission type, accessories and price range, doing an internet search on sites like edmunds.com and autotrader.com showed me what was available in my area.
Check the Vehicle History Reports
Dealers often provide these reports online, or sites such as carfax.com or autocheck.com can provide this service. Check these before you buy a vehicle to see if there’s anything in the vehicle history that would cause concern.
Evaluate your Trade-in Online
If you are trading in a vehicle, check out the Kelly Blue Book’s website to determine the car’s value. This site should give you an accurate idea your vehicle’s trade-in value. If you want to sell your vehicle privately, this site will also give you an accurate resale value.
Get Pre-Approved for a Loan
You can certainly get a loan through most dealerships, but if you’d like to have a loan through a bank, get pre-approved for a vehicle loan in advance based on your price range. This can speed up the car buying process at the dealership.
Test Drive The Vehicle or Vehicles that Meet Your Requirements
Now that you know where to find the exact vehicle you want, and you’re pre-approved for a loan, if you need one, you can go to the dealership and test drive the specific vehicle you want to buy.
Determine a Price with the Salesperson
Once you’ve chosen the vehicle, it is time to discuss the cost. At this time, you can haggle about pricing with the salesperson, if that’s something the dealership does. I personally went to a Carmax dealership, they have no-haggle pricing, so I knew exactly what I would be paying when I saw the car online.
Do a Pre-purchase Inspection
If you have a local mechanic you trust, have a pre-purchase inspection done. My vehicle had a 7-day money back guarantee included, so I took it to my my mechanic for an inspection a couple of days after I bought it. Either way, make sure a mechanic outside of the dealership checks it out near the time of purchase, so you know everything is operating properly.
Purchase the Car
You will spend time filling out paperwork, going over financing and many other details during the purchase process. If possible, I suggest doing this on a weekday when the dealership may be less crowded.
Obviously, every car-buying experience is different, and nowadays there are many options as to where you can purchase a car: from a private seller, a dealership that allows haggling, a haggle-free dealership, or even completely online through sites such as Carvana. The main thing is you know the best vehicle for your lifestyle that is within your price-range. If you can, take your time saving up, browsing around, and then going through the purchase process. Being organized, having a plan, and going through the above procedures step-by-step can simplify this car-buying process.