How to Buy a New Car the Right Way

April 24, 2023
7 min read
How to Buy a New Car the Right Way

Buying a car is something that many people try to avoid until it is absolutely necessary. Pushy salespeople, financing departments that make you feel powerless, and the overall experience might not make for your ideal weekend activity.

The good news is that it does not need to be this way. You can take steps to take control and make the car buying experience one that is enjoyable, and even fun - all it takes is a little preparation. Well, and some understanding of how the market has changed.

Before You Go to the Dealership

A little bit of preparation before you go puts you in control. Here are a few things that you can do beforehand to make sure that the salesperson is not the one calling the shots.

Consider Buying Online

Car shopping is moving online. 38% of current car shoppers expect to complete the entire buying process online, with another 38% intending to purchase a vehicle in person but complete all paperwork online, saving them hours at the dealership, according to PR Newswire.

Narrow Down Your Choices

Making the car buying experience as pleasant as possible begins before you decide to head out to the dealership. You should begin by conducting research online about the type of car that you want, average pricing, amenities, and reliability.

Websites such as Edmunds, Kelly Blue Book, and Consumer Reports can help you find unbiased reports about many vehicles. Popular magazines such as Car and Driver, Motor Trends, and Autotrader can give you insight into real driver experiences and reviews. Safety information can be found at the NHTSA website.

Know What You Want and What You Don’t

Once you have narrowed down your potential choices, compare what different dealerships have to offer. Begin to make a list of things that you want in a car and things you want to make sure to avoid. Have this list with you when you go to negotiate the deal. Don't forget to check out online car dealerships because they are often packed with information and provide an alternative to the traditional buying experience.

Explore Pre-Financing

If you will be financing your new vehicle, it is important to know your budget, your credit score, and your absolute top limit on price and payments. Car salespeople are good at making you feel comfortable with a payment that is too big for your budget but don't let emotions rule the day. Stick to terms that you are comfortable with because you will be making those payments for many years to come.

Coming into the dealership with pre-arranged financing gives you the upper hand. It helps you get the terms that you want and a vehicle that is at a fair price. One tip is to look at the total cost of the vehicle, including insurance, cost of repairs, and total cost of ownership. Getting the right deal is not just about the payments. These extra expenses can add up over time and drive up the cost of the vehicle.

Be Prepared to Act Quickly

"I don't care what kind of car you're looking at, new or used, premium or not, buying a car is basically a luxury purchase nowadays," says Drury from Edmunds.

With this in mind, Drury says you should car shop fully prepared to buy. Make sure your vehicle priorities are set, your financing is in order and a down payment is readily available. Otherwise, the best price tags may slip by you.

How Auto Loans Can Help You to Get the Car of Your Dreams

At the Dealership

One thing that you need to know when you finally meet with your salesperson, is that the less information you give them the better. This is especially true in the beginning. Their job is to get you hooked and convince you to make an impulse buy, even if you regret it later.

Negotiate the Margins

While dealerships in 2022 probably won't budge on price, car shoppers might have luck asking for bonus extended warranty coverage, free oil changes and the like.

"It's always worth considering financing through the dealer," as well, says Newman, since the dealership profits on those loans and may have some room to negotiate. Just check with your bank or another preferred lender first — they could offer even better terms.

Look Out For These Tricks

Knowing the tricks that salespeople use to get you hooked can help you be prepared to defend against these tactics and act in your own best interest. Here is a little insight so you can spot them when you see them.

  • Don’t give too much information. If you have a vehicle trade-in or special discounts, do not mention them in the beginning. Salespeople will use this against you. They will try to get as much information as possible from you while you are distracted with the plush leather seats and gadgets that you don’t need.
  • Beware of add-ons and extended warranties. Most of the time, these are not worth the expense and are often limited in what they cover. It is better to use this money to build an emergency fund for repairs or to use it to pay down the balance faster.
  • Avoid talking about finance early on. If the salesperson insists on talking about finance as soon as you walk on the lot, tell them you are not ready to discuss that yet. Tell them you are just concentrating on finding the right vehicle first, and then you can talk about finance.
  • Always test drive the car. Make sure that it is a vehicle you are comfortable with, and watch out for hidden potential problems. Test every control and device in the vehicle, even if it is new.
  • Building urgency. One tactic the salesperson might use is to tell you that if you don't take the deal today, it will be gone. This is meant to make you fearful of losing out and coerce you into making a snap decision. There will always be good deals around, if not at their dealership, at another one.

Stand Your Ground (If Needed)

One tactic that salespeople often use is to play the clock and to try to delay the deal until you are tired and hungry. If they keep going back and forth to their manager when negotiating the price, tell them to give you their best price. You can also tell them that you can continue negotiating online and by text. Besides, you then have a tool that you can use to compare prices at other dealerships after you get home.

After the Deal

Once you get your car home, the excitement will wear off and reality will sink in. Hopefully, you have made the best choice for you and are happy with it, but there are some things that you should do in the first couple of days to make sure that you can live with your choice.

The First Few Days

In the first couple of days, take your car out and drive it. Test it out, and make sure that you did not get caught up in the heat of the moment and miss something. Take notes about your experience driving the car, and take the time to think about whether this car is really right for you.

Many car buyers are under the misconception that once the papers are signed, the deal is done. However, make sure that the paperwork has what is called an “escape clause”. This clause usually says that if you find any reason that you don't like the vehicle within a certain amount of time, you can return it, get your money back, and it will state any penalty for doing so. If the contract does not have an escape clause, don't sign it.

Buying a new car does not have to be a negative experience, and with a little bit of preparation, it can be a fun process. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are the one who will have to live with your decision for many years to come, not the salesperson. Now, you have much more information available to you via the Internet than in the past. This gives you leverage and the power to get the car of your dreams at a price that you can afford. All it takes is a little bit of preparation before you walk into the dealership.


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