Buying a Car
Car Shopping 101
So you’re ready to buy a car! Here are a few tips to help you make an educated decision.
Do Your Homework
Talk to other car owners and read magazines like Car & Driver and Motor Trend to get an idea of the kind of car you’d like to have.
Review Consumer Reports or Consumer Guide for recommendations and performance histories of different makes and models.
Visit several dealerships and talk to the salespeople — but don’t let anyone talk you into buying a car that day.
Figure out what you can really afford. What kind of down payment can you make and how much money can you do without each month?
Get the Best Price
Unless you go to a haggle-free dealership, you’ll have to negotiate with the salesperson to get your best price.
Don’t let the salesperson start the negotiations by asking how big of a monthly payment you can afford. Often you''ll get the payment down to a manageable figure, but the total price of the car will still be quite high. Instead, tell the salesperson you do not want to discuss financing, just the price of the car.
When negotiating, start with the dealer invoice price and work your way up. Don’t start with the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) and work your way down.
When a cash rebate is offered, it’s usually from the auto manufacturer and not the dealership. Don’t let the salesperson figure the rebate into the negotiations.
Remember if you don’t get the best price for the car, be prepared to walk away.
There are many places to get used cars:
New car dealers have many types of used vehicles for sale. There are former rental cars, commonly called "program cars.” These one- to two-year-old cars may still be warranted by the factory. Then there are vehicles traded in by new car buyers and those turned in at the end of a lease. Previously leased vehicles can be a good buy, since most are still under factory warranty, are well maintained and have low mileage,as required by the lease. All other used cars from new car dealers come with 30-day warranties.
Another source of used vehicles is rental companies like Enterprise. Their vehicles may also have rather high miles, but you can get some great deals by being a member of the credit union. They usually come with 30-day warranties from the company.
Used car dealers have a wide variety of vehicles and a good selection of older used cars, but be sure to avoid fly-by-night operations.
Cars from used car companies with "no haggle” pricing like CarMax and AutoNation tend to be higher priced than ones found elsewhere.
What to Look for During a Test Drive
First, see if the car has what you need in these categories: power, room, safety features, ease of entry and exit, local parts and service and a solid warranty.
Then be on the lookout for excessive wind or engine noise, heavy or imprecise steering, poor gas mileage, sloppy fit (trim, molding, etc.), unreadable instruments and clumsy controls or levers.
You’ll also want to consider whether the car fits your lifestyle. Will your luggage fit in the trunk? Are there enough seats for those you will transport on a regular basis?
Once you're ready to buy a new or a used car, be sure to check out our vehicle loans and come in to get preapproved for a loan before you shop!