Buying a car can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.  If you do your research, you can get the right car for the best price.  Here are some points to remember before going shopping.


Choosing the Vehicle

The first question to ask is which car is right for you.  Consider what you plan to use the car for: hauling equipment, traveling, carpooling, etc.  Weigh space options and mileage to find what type of vehicle best fits your lifestyle.  Then compare your budget to the cost of owning that vehicle, including insurance, MPG, and annual repairs.  Also check whether it has a unique tire size or requires synthetic oil. 

The next question is whether to buy new or used.  Many new cars depreciate up to 30% in value over the first two years, which may mean buying a used car is wiser.  However, the manufacturer may offer rebates that significantly decrease the cost of a new car.  If the rebates don’t add up to less than the cost of a used car, go used.  But remember, know the history on the used car you’re purchasing.  Check for a history of the vehicle, have a mechanic inspect the vehicle for evidence of damage, and ask the dealer about the history of accidents, usage, and repairs. 



Start your research with reviews on the vehicles you’ve chosen.  Sites like offer reviews, safety ratings, and typical repairs.  Know the kinds of issues you might face in the future, as well as their cost.  Then rent the car for a day to see if it’s what you want to drive for the foreseeable future.

Once you know the character of the vehicle, look into the cost.  Consult Kelley Blue Book for the current value, the invoice price for what the dealer paid, and the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.  Next, consult the websites of several dealers in your area for the vehicle’s average retail value.  If a dealer two towns over has your car for less, you can let the dealer know you’re willing to go two towns over, then negotiate from there.

Next, research the dealers you’re considering.  Check online for complaints or praise, and ask your friends and family for their opinions.



If possible, get your loan financed through your bank or credit union.  You’ll get a better interest rate, and you’ll walk into the dealership preapproved.  You can also look into online loan companies such as, which sometimes have better rates than the bank.  Dealerships usually offer to finance your loan, but keep in mind that they profit significantly at your expense.  If you go this route, read the fine print carefully: is the APR constant throughout the life of the loan, or only for the first year?  Finally, though it’s tempting to make a small down payment with long repayment period, don’t give in.  Making a large down payment with a shorter loan repayment period means you’ll pay less interest.


Buying the Car

Don’t purchase a vehicle on your first visit.  Speak frankly with the dealer about your concerns surrounding the vehicle, and discuss their competitors’ prices.  Then when you’re ready to make a purchase, make an appointment with the sales manager.

Negotiating skills are a must in buying a vehicle, but this is something a lot of people feel squeamish about.  A great tip is to negotiate from the invoice price up, rather than starting from the sticker price and going down.  Once you’ve settled on a price, don’t allow the dealer to add on extra costs.  The price you’ve agreed upon is the price you should pay.  Adding on extra costs is grounds for walking out, which you have a right to do.


Buying a car is a difficult process with a lot of steps and even more to remember. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.  However, if you do your research and know your stuff, you can buy the perfect car for a good price.