Buying your first car is a momentous occasion. Some would say an occasion to celebrate. However, it can also be a bit nerve-wracking. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you take your time to consider your options at every step of the way, seek the advice of those you know and trust, and keep your expectations within your abilities. Let’s look at a few factors you should consider when shopping for your first car.
Budget & Financing
Before you even start looking at lists of available vehicles at local dealerships, or even window shopping online, you’ll need to establish a budget and arrange for financing. You should be able to estimate your monthly payments based on the price of the car, how much you have to put down on it, and what your interest rate will be.
You should have a maximum price in mind and stick to it. If you are arranging for a car loan before going to the dealership, the bank may give you a maximum amount. Just because they’ve provided a loan up to that amount, you should still consider the total loan amount and monthly payment that you feel most comfortable with. This might be less than the maximum amount of the car loan.
Find a Dealership
Once you know how much you can afford and you have financing arranged, it’s time to find a dealership. Most people purchase a used car for their first vehicle as they are more affordable. Used car dealerships in your area will vary in size and the types of cars they feature. You should also look up reviews of the dealerships before you go looking at what they have on the lot. Recommendations from friends and family can help point you in the right direction.
Compare Your Options
This is where the process might feel most overwhelming, so take your time. Every dealership will have multiple cars available. Have a salesman show you the vehicles that fit within your budget but also match your needs. If you have a big family, then a 2-door sports car is probably not the best choice.
You’ll need to compare several features of each option. Are they standard or automatic transmission? What kind of gas mileage do they get? How many miles are on the car? Does it have leather seats, a sunroof, cruise control?
When you are looking at all these different factors, you’ll also need to look at the price they are asking for. If two vehicles each have similar options, but one is a little cheaper, could that be the better choice? The important thing is to take your time in comparing the vehicles that match your budget and needs.
Possible Interior Needs
Used cars are never perfect and sometimes things are missing from the interior. The most common items missing are the floor mats. There are high-quality, aftermarket floor mats that work just fine, and sometimes even better than the originals. Other items you may want to replace if they are missing include the cigarette lighter, caps that cover power adapters, vents, etc. If the car owner’s manual is missing, you might be able to order one from the vehicle’s manufacturer.
Just as the interior may not be perfect, most used cars will have some mechanical wear and tear. In addition to regular maintenance like oil changes and tune-ups, you’ll want to have a mechanic give your used vehicle a good look. You may need to have the AC system charged or perhaps there is a sensor or a fuse not working properly. Vehicles with higher mileage might benefit from aftermarket shocks or struts. You’ll enjoy a smoother ride.
Buying your first car is exciting but you don’t want to rush the process. Be sure to take your time to arrange proper financing once you’ve figured out an affordable budget. Shop several reputable dealers to see what vehicles are available and what features they have. And don’t shy away from a used car that might need simple floor mats or easy mechanical upgrades to give you a comfortable and affordable new ride.