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First-Time Car Buyer Guide: What to Get, Where to Look, and How to Pay

These days, lots of people are choosing to live car-free. While this practice definitely has its benefits, there’s something about owning a car that just can’t be beaten.

If you’ve never owned a car before, now might be the perfect time to make that investment. Of course, buying a car for the first time can be quite a nerve-wracking experience.

How do you figure out which kind to buy? How do you handle financing? Where should you shop? 

If you’re a first-time car buyer, there’s no need to panic. This guide was made with you in mind.

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Read on to learn everything you need to know about buying your first car.

Set Your Budget First

One of the biggest hurdles people experience when they start looking into buying their first car is figuring out how they’re going to pay for it.

Before you start shopping, set a budget for yourself. Be realistic with this budget.

Remember that you don’t just have to pay for the car. You have to be able to pay for gas, cover the cost of insurance, and pay for repairs that might pop up. 

Once you know what you can afford, then you can start looking for a car that fits your budget.

Think About Your Transportation Needs

If you’re not sure what kind of car you should buy, start by thinking about your transportation needs.

How much are you going to be driving this car? Where will you be driving it? How much space do you need? 

Remember that the type of car you purchase will have an effect on the cost of fuel and the cost of insurance, too.

If you’re short on cash, you’ll want to avoid buying a vehicle that’s a gas guzzler or is considered a risky vehicle by insurance companies.

Think About Your Transportation Wants

You ought to be practical when you’re shopping for a car, especially your first one.

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At the same time, though, that doesn’t mean you have to focus exclusively on utility. You can think about your wants, too.

What kind of features are most important to you? Do you want extras like a backup camera or heated seats?

Prioritize your wants and do the math to figure out how much extra they’ll cost you. If they fit your budget, go ahead and get them!

Consider Buying Used

When you’re buying your first car, you should definitely consider buying a used model.

Remember that new cars lose a lot of their value the second you drive them off the lot. They also lose additional value every year for the next five years.

If you’re going to have to take out a loan to buy your car, you’ll get more bang for your buck buying a gently used one.

Do Your Research

Do plenty of research before you decide to purchase a particular type of car.

Learn about the car’s gas mileage, the way it drives, how well it does in inclement weather — leave no stone unturned.

If you’re not sure about a specific type of car and you know someone who drives it, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and see what they think.

Most people love to talk about their cars, so they’ll likely be glad to give you their opinion.

Know Your Credit Score

Before you start looking into financing, find out what your credit score is.

Most banks and credit unions let you look up your credit score online, or you can use a third-party website. You can also request a free copy of your credit report from the Federal Trade Commission.

Knowing your score can give you an idea of the type of interest rates you can get.

Looking at your credit report also gives you an opportunity to identify and correct any mistakes that could be bringing your score down.

Know Your Financing Options

Once you know your credit score, reach out to your bank or credit union and ask them about financing.

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Getting pre-approved gives you a better idea of your budget before you start shopping. It also takes away the pressure you might feel at a dealership to accept subpar financing options.

Remember, getting pre-approved doesn’t mean you have to work with a particular lender. If a dealer offers better financing, you’re free to work with them instead.

Find a Trustworthy Dealer

The key to getting a great car that fits your budget is to make sure you’re working with a trustworthy dealer.

Ask for recommendations from your friends and family. You can also do some research to find a dealer that has good online ratings in your area. 

If you’re not sure which dealer to work with, take a look at their inventory to see if they have the kind of car you want. This dealership even allows you to look at their inventory online.

Take It for a Test-Drive

Before you decide to purchase any kind of car, you have to take it for a test-drive.

Drive it on surface roads and on the freeway to get a good idea of how fast it goes, how well it accelerates, and if there are any issues when you pick up speed.

This is especially important if you’re buying a used car. 

Be Patient

Finally, be patient and enjoy the car-buying process.

It may be tempting to buy the first car you see. Take your time, though, and try out a few different options.

This allows you to get a good idea of what you like in a car and what features matter most to you. 

Get More First-Time Car Buyer Tips

Buying a car can definitely be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done it before.

If you’re a first-time car buyer, these guidelines can help you sort through all the misinformation on the internet and ensure you make a great first choice.

Do you want to learn more tips for first-time car buyers? What about car maintenance tips for first-time owners?

Whatever car-related information you need, you can find it on our Auto Repair Blog.

We’ve got tons of great articles here. Start by checking out this one on signs that your car needs an oil change.