Taking the fright out of buying a car

By on February 28, 2011 at 9:26 AM

Posted in: Odds & Ends

Being a 20-something and recently out of college, I haven’t had a lot of experience making big purchases. However, my current car is going through a seemingly never-ending series of repairs, and I’m thinking the time has come to invest in a new car. While the thought of buying a new (or used) shiny car is exciting, I also start breaking out in a cold sweat thinking of having to actually purchase the car. What do I do? How do I start? Where should I look?

After doing some research, I feel like I’m armed with the right knowledge to get out there and purchase a new vehicle and I wanted to share with you some tips that I learned along the way.

  • Start with online research. It’ll give you an idea of what you can afford and it’s always a good place to start getting lots of ideas of what you might want. Thinking pre-owned? Carmax has a great ‘Vehicle Recommendation Tool’ if you’re not sure where to start.  
  • Use Consumer Reports and Edmunds as a resource, too. These sites will provide you with a plethora of reviews, tips and safety ratings, and they will even help you determine the appropriate trade-in value of your old car.
  • If time permits, take advantage of any upcoming car shows in your area. This is a great way to look at a wide variety of new vehicles without the pressure of purchasing on the spot. This is especially helpful if you’re looking to purchase a new vehicle.
  • Prioritize. Unless you have an unlimited budget, most likely you’re going to have to make some sacrifices when purchasing your new or used car. What’s most important to you … good gas mileage, appearance, size, color or something else?
  • Get your financing in order first. If you think your budget for a new car is $20,000 and you do your research, shop and find the car of your dreams, only to then discover that the biggest loan you can get is $13,000, that’s a problem.
  • Don’t fall for a “deal.” Don’t let salespeople pressure you into purchasing a new/used vehicle just because of a “good deal” they have going on right now. Make sure you’re getting the kind of car you want first; then you can talk finances.
  • Don’t feel pressured. You’re the one with the power. You’re the one with the cash. And you’re the one making the decision. Don’t feel pressured or pushed by anyone … and if you do, just walk away. When you’re shelling out thousands of dollars, you should be able to take your time. 
  • If you’re buying a pre-owned vehicle, have your potential new car checked out by another mechanic. Used cars can be risky … unless you do your research. Have a mechanic you trust look at the vehicle before you purchase it; that service might cost you $100, but if it saves you from buying a money-pit, you’ll be thankful!
  • Let GEICO help you find the right car.  Use the GEICO Car Buying Service to research, compare and price your new vehicle online.  If you like what you see, you can even get a low, guaranteed price before you set foot inside a dealership.  That’s it — no salesmen, no haggling, just a great price and a stress-free car buying experience.

So, do you have any tips or pieces of advice that you’d add to this list? We’d love to hear them!