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Buying a car can often be as daunting as it is exhilarating. But knowing where to start — and having a few key advantages in your corner — can make the process a whole lot easier and stress-free. Check out these helpful tips for giving yourself a competitive edge.

1. Do your research

Before buying a car, you want to be really clear about what you’re looking for. It’s easy to get carried away by all that glistening paint and the new-car smell, but you need to be cautiously realistic when it comes to your budget.

Research is your redeemer. It’s your ace in the hole that gives you a fundamental understanding of a car and brand before you buy. After all, it’s ultimately your decision to determine:

  • What kind of car do you need?
  • How gas efficient is the car?
  • How much can you afford?
  • How much will it really cost you? Now, and in the long run?

Knowledge is power and can help you make the right decision. You will want to check online reviews and arm yourself with information. You want to be clear on the make and model for which you’re looking and any idiosyncrasies that a particular brand might have. Surprises aren’t so pleasant if you discover them after a significant purchase.

2. Be clear about your budget

Let’s face it, a car — new or used — is one of the biggest single purchases most  ever make. Your budget will dictate what you can afford. While it’s tempting to go overboard when you find the car of your dreams, it pays to remember that cars are a depreciating asset. Sticking with your budget will help your finances in the long run.

3. Look at your financing options

You may know how much you can afford in monthly payments but need some help with financing. Having a down payment helps, but you’ll likely want to finance the rest.

Start by comparing different financing options — looking at interest rates and repayment terms. Don’t forget to read the terms and conditions to avoid any “gotcha” moments.

You want to make sure you can handle your car payment and clearly understand how much interest you’ll be paying over time.

Using the AutoGravity car financing calculator, you can get an idea of just how much you’ll pay in interest and what your overall cost will look like.

To look at various financing offers, check out the AutoGravity app and see what’s available — right from your smartphone. No visits to the bank or dealership required.

4. Shop around

Not all car dealerships are created equal. You may be able to negotiate at one place but not another. One place may have many versions of the car you want, whereas another one has limited options. There may even be a gap in pricing.

Because of this, it’s crucial not to jump on the first car you see that fits the bill. Research at least three vehicles from different showrooms, and compare prices, terms and conditions.

5. Complete your due diligence (and know when to say “no”)

You’ve found the car you want. Now you’re eager to sign the paperwork and drive off the lot. Be sure to have your due diligence completed first.

Test drive the car. Check the window-wipers, switches, brakes, seats and more. Ensure that everything works and you understand how to use the car safely and effectively. See how comfortable it is to drive.

On top of that, know what’s important. Dealers often want to sell a bunch of add-ons you may, or may not, need. Stay strong and know when to say “no” if it doesn’t make sense for you.

Once you get all that covered, get your paperwork intact, financing in order and insurance underway. When you do, you can enjoy the ride with peace of mind.

 

Author

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer and event planner currently living in Los Angeles. She is the author of the blog and book, Dear Debt and co-founder of Lola Retreat, a women + money event.

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