Keys to Getting a Great Deal When Buying a Car

A family of 3 smiling in a dealership looking at new vehicles.

Buying a car is an important financial decision, so you want to make sure you’re getting the most for your money. The key to getting a great deal is taking time to determine what your needs are and what you can afford before you start shopping. Follow these tips to ensure the vehicle you purchase is right for you and you’re getting a great deal:

Set Your Budget

It’s important to determine how much car you can afford before you decide what kind of car you want. Buying a car is a big financial responsibility. You need to know your limits before you start shopping so you don’t overspend. Our free Auto Loan Calculators can help you estimate how much you can afford. Take a look at your monthly spending and your savings account balance to figure out how much you can put towards a down payment and spend on monthly loan payments. Remember to also factor in costs like insurance, fuel, and maintenance.

Evaluate Your Needs

Assess how you plan to use the vehicle before you start shopping. This will help you determine the right type of vehicle to suit your unique needs. Consider how many passengers you will need to drive on a regular basis, if your driving consists of mainly highways and city streets or if you’ll need a vehicle that can handle off-road driving, if you need a car that can squeeze into tight parking spaces, etc. You don’t want to let yourself get stuck with more car than you truly need just so you will have it for one-off occasions. You’d be better off getting a car that suits your everyday needs, and renting another vehicle on those specific occasions where you need something different. And remember to consider how your needs might change in a few years if you don’t plan to purchase a new vehicle by then. You also want to consider what features are must-haves for you and others that you could live without, such as navigation, keyless entry, rear camera, heated seats, and other features.

Do Your Research

Do your homework and look up information on different models to help you evaluate your best options. See which vehicles match up with or at least come close enough to meet the criteria of what you are looking for in terms of qualities and features. Carefully check the ratings, reviews, and safety information. Compare the manufacturer’s suggested retail price to the average selling price and shop around to ensure you’re finding the best deal.

Compare New vs. Used

Choosing between a new vehicle or getting one used can be a tricky choice. There are pros and cons to each side, but it ultimately comes down to what you want out of the vehicle. Used cars are less expensive, but they also aren’t in perfect condition like a new car would be. If you buy new, you know you’re the only one who’s been behind the wheel, and there are more options for customization and special features. With a used vehicle, you do have to be mindful of what condition the vehicle is in, and keep an eye on potential repair costs. If you purchase a used vehicle that needs a lot of repairs, those costs could completely negate the savings of you buying used in the first place. When buying used, make sure you purchase from a reputable source and get full information on the vehicle’s history so there are no surprises. If you decide to buy used, a car that’s around 2-3 years old will allow you to have modern features and safety measures, but without excessive wear and tear that could require costly repairs down the road.

Determine the Best Time to Buy

Vehicle costs are not set in stone, they change constantly throughout the year. There are even certain times of year that you could get a way better deal than regular sale prices. If you aren’t shopping for a car as an immediate need, waiting for these times could pay off big time and you could save yourself thousands on the final cost. Look for annual sales around certain holidays or over the summer. Remember that Black Friday doesn’t just mean deals and discounts for retail, plenty of car dealerships offer special sales during that time as well. Shopping towards the end of the month or year is also likely to find you with a better deal, as salespeople are hoping to meet their goals and get cars off the lot to make room for new ones. Finding the best times to buy may take some strategic scheduling and patience, but it can pay off big in the long run and help you drive away with your dream car at a fraction of the cost.

Take Your Time with the Test Drive

The test drive is one of the most important parts of the car buying process, so you want to take full advantage and spend plenty of time behind the wheel before you buy. This is your best opportunity to test a vehicle’s performance and features and see how well it meets your needs and expectations. Make sure your test drive is with the exact vehicle you’re interested in, not “the next closest model,” and don’t limit yourself to just your top choice vehicle. You should test drive each of the vehicles you are most serious about so you can fairly compare and contrast each one’s features and drivability. Spend time in the car while it’s parked to adjust the seats and mirrors, experiment with the controls, and see how everything feels. A good test drive includes a variety of conditions and speeds so you can get the full picture of what driving the car will be like. Drive through parking lots, highways, back roads, even the interstate if possible. Take note of how the car performs as you turn, slow down, accelerate, and perform other maneuvers. Taking your time with a thorough test drive and inspection is the best way to avoid buyer’s remorse, so don’t hesitate to ask for more time behind the wheel if you need it.

Let Robins Financial Credit Union walk you through the auto buying process and show how you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your next purchase. With excellent rates, no hidden fees, and convenient payment options, Robins Financial makes purchasing a vehicle easy and affordable. Determine how much you can afford using our handy Auto Loan Calculators. If you’re ready to take the next step in the car buying process, apply for an auto loan online, over the phone, or request an appointment at one of our branches.

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