Buying a car can be intimidating. It’s not a process most people look forward to, but after you get past all the smoke and mirrors, it actually isn’t that complicated. Yes, a lot of factors could conceivably confuse you-and, sadly, some people in the business might try to benefit from your confusion-but in the end you have one goal and one goal only: to get the right car at the right price.
When you count vehicle brands, models, and trim variations, there are literally thousands of vehicle choices available. Finding the right one for you involves first answering the following three simple questions honestly and forthrightly:
What do you need? Do you need a vehicle to pull a horse trailer? Or do you need a car to commute back and forth to work? How many people and how much stuff will you be transporting? This helps determine the size and type of vehicle that’s right for you-at least in theory. Any discrepancy between the answer and your eventual choice may be affected by the emotional factors inherent in Question 2.
What do you want? It isn’t silly or frivolous to want a particular type of vehicle even if it might not be best suited for your day-to-day use. Whether it’s clothes, homes, or ice cream, emotion plays a part in what we buy. Perhaps you really need an economical car to commute in, but you really want a mid-size SUV. That’s okay. It’s your money.
What can you afford? Question 2 allowed you to dream. Now financial reality rears its ugly head. We believe that your overall financial solvency is more important than buying a spiffy new car you can’t afford, no matter how good it will feel at first. Determine how much cash you have for a down payment, and then figure out what you can comfortably pay per month. Don’t guess; take out a calculator and do the math. And be honest with yourself; the truth might hurt now, but facing it will make your life better later.
Let Us Help You Narrow Down the Choices
Now that you’ve answered the three key questions of car buying and determined what you need, what you want, and how much you can pay, you are in a perfect position to figure out the right car for you. That means it’s time do some research on CarandDriver.com to learn more about the vehicle or vehicles you’re interested in and make your final choice. You might also want to visit the carmaker’s site and test-build your vehicle on its online configurator as another way of knowing what models and options are available and how much it all costs.
Today’s market is overflowing with excellent vehicles at every price point, so it’s likely that several will have the attributes you want at the price you can afford-and some will be manufactured by a brand you want to own. Remember that this process isn’t all left-brain oriented and practical; it’s natural to feel an emotional pull toward one vehicle or another. Go with your gut, as long as it doesn’t threaten to ruin you financially. Why be merely satisfied with the vehicle you’ve chosen when you can be delighted?
Three Steps to Getting the Right Deal
Do your research. Vehicle pricing is opaque. For most products that you purchase, the price is clear up front, listed on a price tag. But that isn’t the case with a vehicle purchase, where the window sticker is just the starting point. But the information you need to get the right deal is out there, just a few mouse clicks way.
You’ve already done some research to determine what you want to buy; now you want to see what other people are currently paying for that same vehicle. What you’re seeking is the “transaction price” or the “market price.” That’s roughly what you want to end up paying-maybe a little less, hopefully not much more. Black Book is a good source, and there are several other credible sources for comparative real-world pricing.
Get your financing preapproved. Many people fight the dealer tooth and nail to get them to lower the purchase price a couple hundred bucks. Then they give it all back, and more, by taking a dealer-offered financing deal that is more costly than necessary. Remember, you are buying financing, so shop as carefully for the financing as you do for the car. Mind-numbing research is not required, but a few mouse clicks on car financing sites and a phone call to your local bank are.
Be willing to walk away. Having done all of the above-chosen the vehicle, figured out the market price, and lined up financing-you are now, finally, ready to enter the dealership. While it might seem intimidating, remember this: you have all the power. You know what you want, know what you want to pay, and have the financial wherewithal to do it. Insist on the right car at the right price, or walk away. Unless your research is utterly faulty or your expectations (like buying below the dealer’s cost) are totally unrealistic, it’s highly likely that another dealer in your area will sell you the car you want at the price you’re willing to pay. That’s all there is to it. Now go forth and buy with confidence!