Buying your first car for school, for your son or daughter, or going to work? It is the second biggest purchase of your life but actually pretty simple process when you break it down and can be fun.
The best thing to do is to think first about what you need not what you want. Think about how much cash you have as cash is king in the automotive world. If you have enough cash, you may be able to buy your car outright. Dealers love cash as it helps them pay their bills, buy more cars, etc. Cash deals are actually not very profitable versus vehicle financing but cash flow is cash flow nontheless. Some dealers make millions but it's based on volume. They may gross $1500 on your purchase but after they pay their bills most end up actually profiting $150. So don't lowball them too much as it just sets a bad tone. Plus dealers have a tendency to do alot more for a customer they made a profit on. Small things like putting on your new license plates or washing it don't seem like a big deal but can save you time, money, and hassle.
My recommendation once you know what your needs are and how much cash you have, the monthly payment you can afford (after gas, insurance and a little repair/maintenance fund), get on the web and hunt for vehicles in your price range. My favorite sites as a consumer as well as a dealer are Craigslist and AutoTrader.com. Craigslist postings have a tendency to be cheaper but buyer beware. You can also buy from other consumers but be prepared for an extensive hunt, title issues, and some creepy experiences.
Getting a feel for what you can get for your money, send the dealer an e-mail to ensure the vehicle is still there, and then go visit on a Sunday if you want some time to think. If you are ready to buy, need a car or truck really fast or have some questions then by all means go on a Saturday. At 9995 Motors Saturday is my biggest day of the week. You can also get very lucky at end of month as we need to pay our rent on the first.
Come with your cash in hand and use it as a bargaining chip. Learn about the car, drive the car, and once you find the best of the three for the money you have, offer them a reasonable price based on your websearch.
You may want to take the vehicle to a repair shop to have them check it out - well worth the $100 or so at an NTB or other garage. We have one across the street from us. Many consumers hope by finding things wrong the price will go down but as dealers we price the vehicle based on the condition it is in but you would want to know yourself so you can plan your repairs and maintenance.
Many folks spend alot of time driving around hoping to find "the magic bean" but most of the time you'll find vehicles are priced right for the market these days. There are some basic values out there like Ford Taurus, Ford Focus or Windstar Minivans, some folks like to stick with the Japanese hoping for some reliability - just depends what your needs are. Chevy trucks, Ford trucks, Camrys and Accords seem to top most used vehicles lists but you will pay a pretty penny for the Toyotas and Hondas.
Once you have landed on the vehicle, then it's transaction time. More on that in later postings.
If you have found this helpful or interesting, then send me a note!
Your Car Insider