How to buy your first car and not regret it

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This is a part of CNET’s #adulting sequence of tales to assist you determine how to reside, work and play now that you just’re all grown up. 

So you are finished taking Lyfts and bumming rides off buddies. It’s time to buy a brand new car and that is a reasonably large deal.

Besides a home, the acquisition of a car is the most important outpouring of cash most of us will ever pay. Never worry, my buddies. This information will (hopefully) make the method so much much less worrying.

Set your funds (and stick to it)

Before you do something, resolve on a funds. A superb rule of thumb is to preserve the acquisition at or beneath 20 p.c of your yearly wage. So, in the event you earn $65,000 per yr, your max funds is $13,000. This quantity — and what’s necessary to you (that is subsequent) will largely decide whether or not or not you buy a brand new or used car, that are two fully totally different processes. 

Once you set your funds, stick to it. If you are buying a brand new car and financing it, many salespeople will justify you exceeding your funds by encouraging you to give attention to month-to-month funds. For some patrons, the justification works. But you are ready. You will not again down. You bought this. 

What’s necessary to you? 

Maybe you desire a car with wonderful fuel mileage for your lengthy commute. Live within the mountains? You’ll in all probability need one thing with four-wheel drive. If you understand you may be carpooling you may desire a car that seats at the very least 4. Make a “must-have” and “nice-to-have” listing. It would possibly appear like this:

Car wants vs. desires

Need Want
All-wheel drive Sunroof
Large trunk Adaptive cruise management
Low fuel mileage Android Auto/Apple Carplay
2018-volkswagen-atlas-6.jpg

The new all-wheel drive Volkswagen Atlas can get it finished within the snow, however it could also be an excessive amount of car for your wants.


Jon Wong/Roadshow

What’s not necessary to you?

For people dwelling in hotter climates, all-wheel drive is not actually essential. A navigation system is likely to be cool, however you may in all probability find yourself simply utilizing your cellphone anyway. And luxurious options like massaging seats and a heated steering wheel? Super-nice, in fact, however save the scratch for a extra priceless buy. These incremental, however costly, options can shortly drive you out of your funds. 

If you are looking for new or preowned automobiles at a dealership, shopping for into pointless options is even simpler, sadly. Here’s why: Dealerships haven’t got each characteristic combo of each car. In reality, they could solely inventory fashions with options you do not want. If this occurs, you’ve gotten two choices:

  • Have the dealership order the mannequin with the configurations you really need.
  • Find out if the dealership can switch the best car to their lot.

These choices usually imply you may have to wait a couple of days to per week to get your car, so be ready for the wait. You would possibly get excited whilst you’re on the lot, which might tempt you to drive away with a mannequin that exceeds your wants. 

Do some recon

Now that you have set your funds and wants, it’s time to slender down your selections utilizing comparisons and evaluations. Aim for a top-three listing that features configuration particulars. 

And earlier than you go to a dealership, take the time to study in regards to the many options accessible, particularly the non-mechanical ones. These new options are sophisticated and typically complicated. And whereas they will add a number of worth (particularly with regard to security) they’re not all the time essential. You haven’t got to know as a lot as a car salesperson, however you should not be shocked by a lot on the lot.

There are loads of great reviews proper right here on Roadshow. We’ve bought loads of words, videos and pictures for you to look via to provide help to slender down your search. 

Test drive. And then check drive once more

For the love of the clutch pedal, drive the car you’re interested by shopping for. It could have all of the options you need however be extremely uncomfortable and the one method to know for positive is to attempt earlier than you buy. Most dealerships have predetermined routes they take prospects on. If you understand the world, do not hesitate to ask the vendor in the event you can select your personal route, particularly one that mixes freeway and road driving. 

Find out what others are paying

Knowing how a lot others have paid for the car you need will make you a assured negotiator. True Car is a superb web site to see what people have paid for a brand new car. It’s simpler to negotiate when you’ve gotten context about what others are paying. To that finish, do not be afraid to store round with a couple of dealerships, then select the one with one of the best deal. 

Consider financing

Unless you’re shopping for the car outright, you may probably have to finance your buy. This means you may unfold the overall price of the car throughout an extended time period, normally two to 4 years. Often, dealerships supply zero p.c financing, which suggests haven’t got to pay curiosity on your mortgage. 

If zero p.c financing offers aren’t being provided and you are in a rush to buy, store round for a superb rate of interest and learn the wonderful print. Those nice charges could solely be for people with nice credit score or may be the introductory charge — a mortgage that begins a 1.9 p.c for the first yr however then balloons to 13 p.c is not a superb deal. A mortgage with an rate of interest at three p.c or beneath is sweet, however since it’s not zero p.c curiosity, contemplate placing cash down to lower the overall curiosity paid. Here’s an instance of how a lot it can save you:

Car fee comparability

Car worth ($) Down fee ($) Interest charge (%) Loan time period (months) Total price ($)
25,000 zero 2.5 48 26,297
25,000 $10,000 2.5 48 25,778

Don’t be afraid to stroll away

I used to be actually shut to shopping for a used Porsche Boxster from a dealership however was involved about upkeep and insurance coverage prices. When the salesperson pushed the cellphone towards me and demanded I name Geico for a quote, I walked out. He was simply too pushy. 

The dealership will attempt to promote you an prolonged guarantee, however do not forget that new automobiles include a bumper to bumper guarantee already, normally three to 5 years or anyplace from 36,000 to 50,000 miles. Hyundai and Kia have 10-year/100,000 mile warranties on their powertrains, which incorporates the engine and transmission. I am not a fan of prolonged warranties, however in the event you’re planning on protecting your car a very long time or placing a number of miles on it, it could also be value it. And, in some instances, a guaranty that exceeds your possession of the car can add worth once you resell it. 

Buying a used car

If your funds simply does not enable you to get a brand new car inside your worth vary, contemplate shopping for an, ahem, “preowned” car. Many can be found at dealerships, so all of the aforementioned suggestions nonetheless apply. 

As a car professional, I can inform you: used is usually the most suitable choice. That’s as a result of, once you buy a brand new car, it depreciates considerably the second your drive off the lot. When you buy used, another person has taken the hit, even when the car is only a couple years previous. 

I buy all my automobiles used. My most up-to-date buy was via Craigslist, however there are a number of totally different websites. You can buy a car on Ebay or you possibly can attempt CarsDirect or AutoTrader. Shift allows you to browse automobiles on its website and will deliver them to you to check drive, since, you understand, you in all probability haven’t got a car to get there. There are additionally specialty websites like Bring a Trailer for classics or The Samba for all your classic VW wants.

To get an thought of how a lot you must pay, attempt Kelley Blue Book or NADAGuides. Both enable you to seek for a particular make and mannequin and embody variables like configurations and mileage.

Once you’ve got discovered your dream used car and taken it for a check drive (since you’ve finished that, proper?) it’s time to CYA or Cover Your Ass. Regardless of vendor or non-public get together, the proprietor ought to give you the option to inform you the car’s upkeep historical past, any mechanical issues or quirks, if the car was in an accident and the variety of earlier homeowners.

Car mechanic at work in repair garage

Be positive your mechanic takes a have a look at your new-to-you car inside 30 days.


Getty Images

Then take that data and confirm it. Get the CarFax report to discover out the accident historical past, odometer readings and title historical past. It’s one of the best $40 you possibly can spend. 

Don’t make the error of signing something that claims, “As-is.” Even although you are shopping for used, you must have 30 days to return the car if something goes drastically mistaken or if your mechanic lets you understand it’s a cash pit. 

An inspection from your mechanic is priced round $100 and ought to embody at the very least: 

  • An general visible inspection for rust and different physique bugaboos.
  • Checking for worn suspension elements and leaky seals.
  • Evaluating put on on belts.
  • Checking spark plug wires.
  • Brake inspection.
  • Giving system a visible once-over.
  • Checking the standard of the tires.

I can not emphasize that final bullet level sufficient. The tires could look wonderful but when they’re greater than 5 years previous, the rubber elements could have degraded, which might have lethal penalties. 

Despite all this sensible recommendation, one of the best tip I can provide is to buy what you’re keen on. Life is simply too brief to drive one thing you do not completely adore. So what if it’s not sensible? If you need that convertible and you possibly can afford it, go for it! Live within the metropolis however in the event you’ve all the time needed a Ford Raptor, I say hell to the yeah. Life is simply too brief to drive a boring car.



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