Whether it’s your first time buying a vehicle or you’re looking to replace your current ride, doing some pre-purchase homework is essential. Here are a few tips to help you get the most car for your money.
Keep your goals realistic.You might love the idea of being seen behind the wheel of a sleek sports car or a huge SUV, but your budget may not be up to that kind of purchase. Your budget will determine whether you can best afford a new or pre-owned car. For most people, a good rule of thumb is to try to keep the total cost of your car to 15% to 20% of your yearly income.
While a car is an important purchase, you should be careful about stewardship of your resources. Cars lose value over time, and you wouldn’t want to incur large amounts of debt for a fancy sports car which may no longer meet your needs once you’ve settled down and started a family. On the other hand, you don’t want to purchase a car that is unreliable and near the end of its useful life just to save a few dollars.
Research costs of ownership and maintenance. Do you know how much your preferred make and model of car sells for new? Used? Don’t just find out sale (and resale) value; you’ll need to know about how much the car will cost you in upkeep.
If you have your heart set on a luxury model or a classic car, be aware that even if you get a great deal on the car itself, the cost for parts and labor will be much higher than it would be for a more recent or more popular model.
Test drive before you buy. This might seem like an obvious step, but in a time when you can easily shop for cars online, there’s no substitute for taking a spin around the block—and on the highway. When buying a pre-owned car, look for any telltale signs of damage from previous accidents; listen for any unusual engine noise, especially as you accelerate and brake.
You’ll also want to make sure you can comfortably reach all the necessary controls and that you have good visibility. After all, you’ll hopefully have this car for years, and you’ll want to be able to operate it without having to stretch your neck or strain your eyes.
Have the car inspected before you buy. The seller of the car will probably tell you it’s in fantastic condition and has never been in an accident, but it won’t hurt to verify that information. Bring the car to a mechanic you trust. If there are some minor issues, you can use this knowledge to try and negotiate a better price. Also, get a copy of the car’s history report (for example, from CARFAX or from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.)
Once you’ve picked out the car you want, you’ll need the right auto loan. Don’t be afraid to shop around for a loan that meets your needs. And if you do a lot of driving or just want to protect your investment, you should consider purchasing breakdown protection in addition to a policy that will cover your loan balance in case of serious accident or theft.
We offer a Deals on Wheels partnership with Autoland to make it easy for our members to shop for cars. We also offer one-stop car shopping through AutoSMART and dealer financing through CUDL for California residents.
With a little preparation and a clear sense of your ideal vehicle, you can find the best car for your budget—and maybe even have a little fun in the process.
This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation. Christian Community Credit Union is an Equal Opportunity Lender.