How to be a Smarter Car Shopper

Buying a car can be an exciting and satisfying experience if done right. The challenge is that many people buy on emotion instead of logic. This can end up hurting you not only in an immediate financial sense, but also with regard to your credit score. It doesn’t help that there’s a lack of general education on how to properly buy a car.

Therefore, we must educate ourselves on matters of large purchases and financing. Otherwise, we will all fall into the trap of buying what we want and not what we can truly afford. Don’t worry, though—I’m here to help!

Here’s how to be a smarter car shopper:

  1. Be clear on your budget before you start looking for a car.
  2. Buy with cash if possible. If you can’t, then don’t spend more than 5-10% of your monthly income. For example, if you have a monthly net income of $4,000, limit your payment to no more than $200-$400 a month.
  3. If you’re buying used, buy the latest body style but with its oldest year. This can save you somewhere around 30-60% of the new car price, but you still get the car you like!
  4. Make sure the car still has a warranty on it for at least 18 months.
  5. Look for low mileage. Try to find a car that has less than 10,000 miles average per year on it.
  6. Avoid dealerships if you can. Try sites like Craigslist or eBay.
  7. Always have your personal mechanic look at the car when buying used.
  8. Remember not to buy on emotion. Wait 6 months before you buy the car you want. Patient buyers get the best deals. Don’t let yourself be pressured into a decision.

No matter what your income bracket is, you can apply these guidelines when you go to buy a car. If you want a car that you can’t yet afford, set a goal for yourself to get there. There is sweet satisfaction in rewarding yourself with the car you’ve earned.

Last but not least, as you drive away in your new ride, make sure you are aware of your surroundings: My animal friends and I are a little hard to see on crosswalks.

If you are interested in leasing, then you may want to read Newton’s discussion on
To Lease or Not to Lease?

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