7 Car Buying Tips For A Pain-Free Experience

Car Buying Tips To Get The Right Car For You
The key to getting the car you want is in doing your homework, shopping for features rather than brands, good timing and knowing exactly what you need. Photo: Scotty Reiss

If You’re Like the Rest of us, You’d Rather Have a Root Canal than Buy a Car.

Buying a car can be tough and intimidating. Even people who know a lot about cars don’t love the process of shopping and negotiating. But you don’t have to be an expert. Our car-buying tips will help you get the car you want at the right price.

Like anything else, if you are prepared you’re more likely to be happy and get a good deal on your new car. Here are seven ways to ensure you get the car you want, the deal you want, and that when you head to the dealership, you’re the one in charge.

Car Buying Tips

Buttons that add to the Toyota Camry‘s safety include blind spot monitors, traction control, lane departure warning and crash mitigation gap. Photo: Scotty Reiss

1. Put Safety First 

Make sure the new car you’re considering has state-of-the-art safety systems including:

    • blind spot monitors
    • lane departure warning
    • auto braking/crash prevention
    • pedestrian detection
    • rear view camera
    • tire pressure monitoring
    • hands free communications such as Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

These systems are standard equipment on many models or available for a very reasonable price, something under $3,000.

Did you know you can buy a car through Costco? No negotiating and Costco customer service

2. Decide What You Really Need

Don’t skimp on space, engine size, storage, safety or other features you need. Do you have significant snow in the winter? Get all wheel drive. Occasionally need room for 6? Get a third row. Tow a boat on summer weekends? Make sure the engine and suspension can handle it. Have teens whose phones are constantly dying? Get charging USB ports in the second row. Do you spend a lot of time helping toddlers in and out of the car, and strapping them into car seats? A crossover or SUV with running boards could be the answer. 

Make a list of the must-haves in your new car, then find a car that has them all AND is in your budget, which takes us to tip #3:

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Car Buying Tips

Be sure to shop across brands and models to find the features that best suit your needs. Photo: Scotty Reiss

3. Shop Across Brands and Models

Probably the biggest mistake people make is deciding on the brand before looking at features. Did you know you can get many of the same features and technology in a $20,000 car that you can get in a $100,000 car? From safety technology to leather seats to head up display, budget shouldn’t limit you. And even if you have Mercedes-Benz or BMW taste, you can likely find a model in the lineup that will fit your budget.

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4. Do Your Homework

Know your budget, credit rating and get your financing in line before you start shopping. Know the car you want, the features you need and the deals you qualify for. Know the value of your trade-in, how much you can put down and if you’re trading in a car with a loan or lease, how much the dealer will have to assume. Take time to review the paper work and ask a lot of questions–if anything doesn’t add up or seems odd, as about it. This puts the negotiating power is in your hands and the dealership is at your mercy, not the other way around.

Here are some of the best value cars on the market

5. Time Buying a Car to Car Sales Trends

First quarter sales were down, that means there are likely to be good deals in the spring. Generally, the end of the month, end of a model year and end of the calendar year are times when dealers need to move cars off the lot and are more willing to negotiate. Remember, a car sitting on the lot is just costing them money; they’d rather have it sitting in your driveway.

6. Don’t Fall for TV ads

They want you to fall in love with their beautiful cars, but the cars and deals offered on TV are generally low mileage lease deals (meaning you’re penalized for putting more than about 10,000 miles on it a year) and may not have the the features you need. A bad lease can cost you money in the long run if you may have to pay just to return the car.

7. Take a Really Good Test Drive

A test drive should give you an idea of what life would be like with this car. Plan for 30 minutes or more, drive to your house, take a photo of the car in your driveway, make sure it will fit in your garage, get your kids or a friend’s opinion. Take a lot of photos of the inside and outside and make sure it has all the features you want. Then, rest on the decision for a while, at least over night. When you go back to the photos, do you still love the car just as much? 

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What other strategies and tactics have you used when purchasing a car? And what did you neglect to do that you wish you’d done before buying a car? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss