Buying a new car is a big deal, especially when it is your first. In 2002, when I was 17, my parents bought me a beat up black 1999 Grand Prix that I absolutely loved. I put that puppy through a lot and it was passed down to both my younger brothers before making its way back to me. This past summer, my beautiful baby died — about a year earlier than I hoped and left me stranded.
I have no debt and despite the preaching of many to never by a new car, I felt it was the right move for me because I plan on keeping it until it eventually dies. Since this was my first time buying a car, I was nervous — but I read up and talked to some friends before starting my car buying journey. Here are a few steps I took:
Before you can even begin to figure out what kind of car you want to buy, you have to know your budget. Whatever amount you are comfortable with, set that range you’re able and willing to spend before hand.
When you know your budget, it will help you determine where to begin.
Once you know your price range, start your research. The best way to research nowadays is online. Sites like Edmunds.com give you comprehensive information and ratings about the vehicle along with safety, fuel efficiency, and numerous consumer reviews. Researching online will give you the information necessary before you even step into a dealership. This will help you narrow down your choices, as well as help you think of a few questions to ask the salesman.
From these sites, you can also find the MSRP and the invoice price of the car you want. These numbers are important information to help you negotiate for the best deal. Obviously, you are trying to pay closer to the invoice price than the MSRP.
Once you narrowed down your selection and have a good idea of prices, head to the dealership.
In no way shape or form should you be thinking about buying when you go to the dealership for the first time. You are there to test drive and you should make that known right away. Try to test drive all the cars you want to check out on the same day. This will help you better compare the cars and make it easier to narrow down your options.
Tell the salesman you are looking to buy a car within a certain time period, that you’re visiting a few dealerships to test drive, and you would like to test drive one there. When you’re test driving, ask the salesman all the questions you have and don’t show any emotion. If they ask you if you like the car, even if you love it, a simple “it’s ok” will be all they need to hear.
Hopefully, you found the car you love by the end of the day.
Call the salesman with an offer price that is closer to the invoice price and indicate that you want to buy very soon. Let him know you are serious and he will be more willing to negotiate. When he goes to check with his manager and come back with a counter offer, tell him you are busy and that he should call back in 2 hours with a lower number. If the salesman wants your business he will call back. That’s what I did a few times with my salesman and he kept coming down until the limit was reached.
Another option is to sign on to a car aggregation site where you will fill in information about what car you are looking for, and let dealers contact you. Personally I tried this and didn’t like it at all. I got tons of spam emails and annoying phone calls from salesman I didn’t meet in person. I liked the personal touch my salesman was giving me and I wanted to stick with him.
After a few rounds of negotiation, you will hopefully get to a price that you are comfortable with. I bought a 2009 Honda Accord with no extras and was able to get it for a total of $19,999 including . I considered this a win since my goal was to get it in for under $20,000.
Once you have negotiated a price, then you can negotiate a trade-in. Always wait until the end to negotiate a trade-in. Many would recommend you sell the car through Carmax or Craigslist to get more money. I just traded it in with the dealership for $500, since I basically had to push my car just to get it to the dealership.
I plan on keeping my car for at least 10 years and will be taking good care of it to make it last that long. That’s my intention and why I think it’s worth it for me to buy a brand new car.