Buying a Car: 5 Things to Know Before the Purchase

Now that the long summer days are slowly dissipating, it’s is a great time to focus and get back on track. Fall often signifies the start of new beginnings, even if you aren’t heading back to school. Whether it’s a promotion at work, moving to a new city or buying your first car, we think the increasingly crisp air is excellent motivation to turn over a new leaf (pun intended). Many experts even suggest that September is one of the best time to purchase a car because it’s when next year’s models start rolling into the dealerships. So to help make the purchasing experience as smooth as possible, we are launching a blog series about buying a new car, covering everything from the features to look for to understanding the costs involved. First up? The most important things you should know before heading to the dealership.


What’s the best car for me?
You are the best judge of the type of car that will suit your needs. Do you head up to the mountains to ski every weekend in the winter? Or maybe you only use your car for weekend grocery runs? Make sure the vehicles you consider have the right features, fuel economy and cargo volume to fit your lifestyle. While a car’s appearance is definitely a factor in the decision-making process, the actual specifications are equally if not more important. Once you have an idea of the type of car, check out sites like Edmunds or Car and Driver to identify the best models before you head to the dealership.

Should I buy new or used?
It’s always exciting to have a shiny new car, but sometimes buying used can prove to be a better option. Weigh the pros and the cons before you decide: are there enticing incentives being offered with the new car? Could you really save some cash if you went the used route? Our friends at The Zebra have a great article highlighting the best cars to buy used, so check it out while doing your research.

Is the price right?
Once you have identified the car model(s) that you are interested in, identify the car’s invoice price which is how much the dealer is actually purchasing the car for. Unless you are buying a very popular model, you should be able to negotiate a price closer to the invoice versus the “sticker price” or MSRP. You can also use sites like TrueCar to see what other consumers are paying. If you have this information ready when you walk into the dealership, the dealer will know you mean business.

Is it better to lease or buy?
It’s hard to give one definitive answer that covers all scenarios, so you will have to personally evaluate the benefits and setbacks of each payment option. If you decide to buy, you should identify the loan you will need to finance the car ahead of time. Check your credit score and the going rates for your credit, and make sure that realistically fits into your finances. You can then visit your bank to get pre-approved for a car loan, which will prevent you from potentially being trapped in a high-interest loan through the dealership.

When should I purchase?
While there is no “official” best time to purchase a car, there are a few guidelines you can follow to try to secure the best deal. As we mentioned earlier, early fall could reveal some great deals when new-model-year vehicles start rolling into dealer’s inventories. The end of December is typically slow for car sales, so it could also prove to be a wise time to buy. As for day of the week, weekday mornings are generally slow, so you might have an easier time negotiating with the salesperson. Regardless of when you decide to buy, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment ahead of time to show that you are serious about purchasing and know what you are doing.

Equipped with this advice, you should be feeling confident about your upcoming car purchase. The next step will be choosing or updating your car insurance, which we will be covering next in the series. Make sure to subscribe to our mailing list to ensure you don’t miss out on any valuable advice!