You’ve done the work ahead of time. You know how much car you can afford, and what kind of car you want. So, the inevitable task is upon you: a trip to the dealership. Whether it’s your first time buying a car or you’re a car-buying veteran, use these tips to better prepare for your visit.
1. Do some work ahead of time
Avoid feeling overwhelmed during your visit and take time to plan for this big purchase. Look at your household budget and identify what monthly payment would fit with your current budget. Ask yourself: How much car can I really afford? You might be able to stretch yourself to take on a new car payment, but can you still accomplish other financial goals that are important to you? Take time to reflect on your financial goals. Remember, your car payment is more than just the cost of the car. Review the many facets of car ownership, like loan rates and terms, insurance costs, extended service contracts and warranties.
2. Secure financing prior to your visit
This scenario may feel tempting (or familiar): You walk into the dealership, find the car you want, sign the paperwork to finance at the dealership, and then try to refinance the loan later with a lender. Beware of this process. When you work with a lender to get pre-approved for a loan ahead of your dealership visit, then you can explore options that may ultimately save you in the long run, like financing a service contract into the total cost of the loan. Many times, dealers will show you a monthly payment that fits within your budget but may fail to share details about how a term may impact your finances for the long haul. Have those discussions with your lender first and focus on the car at the dealership.
3. Consider insurance first
You may know the monthly payment and kind of car you want, but how does insurance impact that payment? Connect with a car insurance company prior to purchase and evaluate how those costs will impact your financial goals. If the car you want to buy comes with high insurance premiums, it may ultimately impact your choice.
4. Consider (and question) the fees
Make sure you fully understand the costs the dealership may pass along, including additional protection. What are you paying for if you decide to purchase an extended warranty from the dealership? In most cases, this is a program that kicks in after the manufacturer warranty expires. Free oil changes and simple repairs may be part of your extended warranty package. Run the numbers. How much will small repairs on your car actually cost? It’s possible that repairs may be cheaper than the extended warranty cost. Your lender may also offer a warranty package without the dealership fees. It’s worth the inquiry.
5. Don’t feel pressured
Prepare to walk away. Sometimes the car you think you want isn’t the right fit. Your opinion may shift after you take a test drive, and that’s OK. Don’t let the car dealer pressure you into a certain make or model. You can likely find the car you want on another lot for a price that aligns with your financial goals and budget.