10 Tips for Buying Your First Car
One of the biggest, most daunting milestones every driver faces in life
is buying a first car.
Of course, getting to this point is enough of a challenge; you’ve spent
hours upon hours learning to drive, taking your test (likely multiple times),
and finally received your license. You’ve observed other drivers, you’ve
familiarized yourself with the rules of the road, and you’ve proven to be a
safe, reliable person behind the wheel.
However, once all those key steps are out of the way, the process of purchasing
your own vehicle can seem long and difficult. If you’ve gotten used to sitting
behind the wheel of a parent or friend’s car, having to jump to a new vehicle,
one which you’re completely responsible for, might seem to be a big step. It
doesn’t have to be, though. With enough research, thought, and help, buying
your own set of wheels and hitting the road can be easier, and more fun, than
Following this list of 10 tips will help to make buying your first car
simpler than ever.
1. Decide on a Budget
This might sound obvious, but if you’re not careful about establishing a
budget early in the process, you could end up falling in love with cars you
simply can’t afford, but can’t say no to, either. Deciding on a budget means
thinking rationally and realistically, focusing on how much you can afford each
month, and what impact this additional expense will have on your overall
Said impact will vary depending on your current personal and financial situation.
Are you still in school or college right now? If so, chances are you’ll be
living on loans and/or a part-time job, though money may still be tight. On the
other hand, if you’re working full-time, you should have access to a little
more cash. But just because you have full-time employment doesn’t mean you can
go for the most expensive car at the dealership. You need to also consider
whether your circumstances are likely to change in the near future. If you are
in a relationship, are you and your partner planning to get married or have
kids? Do you want to make sure you still have money to save every month for
vacations, house deposits etc., or are you happy to make your car the key
expense instead? All of these factors have to be considered, as do other expenses
related to the car, such as fuel, maintenance, and insurance.
2. Focus on Function Rather than Form
Following on from our first point, it’s vital to limit your focus to the
cars your budget will realistically allow for. You might well convince yourself
that the flashiest, sleekest, coolest car you’ve seen at a high-priced
dealership somehow falls into your affordability range, but you’re only setting
yourself up for disappointment.
It’s natural to fantasize about cruising in the kind of vehicle a
Hollywood star would drive, but you need to focus on the most important
features rather than how cool you’ll look. Work out how much you can afford to
pay each month, keeping in mind the insurance and upkeep costs, and search for
vehicles that fall within this range only. Don’t torture yourself by trying to
work out how many other jobs you need to get to afford that lush car.
Don’t be afraid to make your first car all about function rather than
form; the time may come in the future where you can upgrade to the one you’ve
dreamed about. Until then, though, a cheaper, simpler car is the better choice,
and it will leave you with more money for other expenses that my pop up
throughout the month.
3. Identify the Essentials
To help refine your choice even further, you should spend a little time
considering your practical needs compared with your wants. Think about the type
of lifestyle you lead, the environments you drive through, and the
responsibilities you have. Are you likely to face tough terrain or will you be
on smooth highways most of the time? Will you need to drive in wet or icy
conditions often, or do you live in a warmer climate all year round? Do you
have to cover long distances every day, or make short trips instead?
The answers to the above questions will help you determine the type of
vehicle you need. If you expect to make long drives on a daily or regular
basis, you should invest in the most fuel-efficient car you can afford, rather
than a gas-guzzler that’s going to up your monthly expenses. Likewise, if you
will be driving on challenging terrain, you’ll need a car that’s built for the
great outdoors rather than a less-robust vehicle designed with only the city in
mind. This all might sound like a lot of thought for a first car, but once you
identify your essentials, the process will get a lot easier.
4. Put Time into Your Research
Once you have a fair idea in mind of the kind of first car you need, you
should go online and start researching the particulars of your target vehicles.
Look at the typical prices you can expect to pay, and what sort of financial
plans are available for them. There are plenty of websites that provide these
details, like Kelly
Blue Book and Edmunds, so take your time
and try to find out as much as you can.
The more you know about the costs associated with certain types of vehicles
and the various models available, the more you can continue to identify
possible choices. Don’t be afraid to scour forums to look at the opinions of
other drivers, and see how people with similar lifestyles and budgets to yours handle
their purchase. If you’re looking into a used car, read up on the information
surrounding them and what type of warranty you should expect. If you have a
list of potential first car models or styles with you when you start
approaching dealerships, you can save time and make the buying process far
5. Find a Dealership You Can Trust
You may have a wide choice of dealerships in your town or city. Perhaps
you drive past several on your way to work, or live locally to a number of
different businesses. Of course, you might have never been near a dealership in
your life and have no idea how they operate. This also, is something you should
check out online, to make sure you’re familiar with the buying process.
Look up the dealerships local to you, and investigate their customers’
feedback. Have they been in business long? Are there many satisfied buyers
sharing their experiences, or do the majority of customers warn others away?
Financial plans are another important factor. Certain dealerships provide
buyers with instant approval for an auto loan, regardless of your credit rating.
The credit score you have will affect how specific lenders see you; if you have
a good or excellent rating, there’s unlikely to be a problem, but a poor score
could make securing financing a bit more challenging. Look into which
dealerships have in-house financing, and whether they accommodate first-time
buyers with little or no credit history behind them.
6. Request a Test Drive
Taking your potential first car for a test drive can mean all the
difference between finding the perfect vehicle versus eventual disappointment.
The car may look great and have decent specs, but you won’t know for sure how
suitable it is until you actually get behind the wheel for the first time. Most
dealerships will allow you to take any car you’re interested in for a test
drive; after all, they want to make sure you stay satisfied after you drive
away from their dealership, and eventually come back as a repeat customer.
Ideally, your test drive should take place in the conditions you expect
to be driving in. There’s no use buying a car that doesn’t handle on wet or icy
roads too well when that’s exactly why you need it, nor do you want to invest
in a model that consumes more gas than you can afford. Your sales person will
be looking to help you find the ideal car for your budget and needs, so be
honest about your expectations and requirements.
7. See if the Price Can Be Negotiated
Don’t be afraid to see how much leeway there is on your preferred car’s
price. One useful tactic is to look up other local dealerships and see if they
sell the car or cars you’re interested in, and compare the costs. If one is
cheaper than the other, you can bring this up and see if they’re open to
Not every dealership will be willing to take money off, of course, but
some may, especially if they can see that you’re serious about making the purchase.
If they can’t, or won’t drop the overall price, they may throw in some freebies
or discounts to help ease your financial strain. If they are willing to discuss
the price, though, just asking may be enough to start making deals.
8. Be Curious
Buying your first car is a big step, but be wary of anyone trying to
take advantage of your inexperience and make a quick buck. You should be
willing to ask questions and ensure you feel completely satisfied with a car
before you agree to hand over any money, and sign a contract.
If you’re buying a new car, you don’t need to find out about the car’s
previous usage and whether any major repairs have been performed, but you do
need to get that information if you’re looking to get a pre-owned vehicle. Generally,
whether from a used or new car dealership, pre-owned cars are checked and
maintained to a high standard before being put out for sale, especially at the
most reputable dealerships. And it’s essential to ask important questions about
fuel efficiency, key features, and after-care services.
9. Ask Someone Experienced to Shop with You
One quick, simple way to make buying your first car much easier is to ask
an experienced driver to accompany you on your search; maybe a friend, a
relative, or a colleague. Whoever it is should know a thing or two about buying
vehicles, about what it costs to keep one running and in good condition, and
any potential warning signs to watch out for. If they can bring that knowledge
with them to the dealership, you can let them steer discussions with the sales
person and learn about the process.
Having someone experienced alongside you can be a real
confidence-booster too, encouraging you to ask questions, negotiate prices, and
generally make sure the car you buy is the perfect one for your needs and
10. Take Your Time
When all is said and done, though, you should avoid rushing into buying your
first car as much as you possibly can. Depending on your situation and
responsibilities, this may be easier in theory than practice. After all, if you
have a child on the way, or have other specific transportation needs, having a
car may make life much easier, allowing you to avoid the challenges of taking
public transportation. And if you have a long commute to and from work every
day, having your own vehicle can help you save money and avoid frustrating
delays. In cases like these, investing in a first car may be somewhat urgent,
but if you can afford to wait until you find the ideal vehicle, do so. If you
let yourself get pressured into buying the first possibility you come across,
you may find yourself regretting it down the line.
Your first car is a special purchase, and you should feel proud and
happy with your choice.
Don’t spend any money until you know you have the right car for your budget,
lifestyle, and responsibilities. This should be an exciting time in your life,
as you discover the independence and convenience that your own set of wheels
brings, so try to make the most of it. After all, you’ll only get to buy your
first car once.
We, at Citi Auto Group, believe these tips should give you all the
information you need to make buying your first car much easier. Our staff is
always available to answer any questions you may have, and to help you find the
best vehicle that fits your needs and budget. Feel free to stop by our
dealership, check out our inventory, our financing options, and test
drive any cars you may be interested in.