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Buying a new car can be difficult. And, no matter how much fun buying your first car is, it can be pretty difficult, too. In today’s market, buying your first car is extra tough because of the chip shortage andf other production delays. A little help and some good advice can make buying your first car much easier. Here are five things to know before you buy your first car. 

A close up of used cars for sale on a lot.
A used car dealership. | JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images

Always do your research

This is the first and most important step of the entire process. Researching cars that you are interested in will serve you better than anything else. The car market can be confusing. There are dozens of automakers who make dozens of models that come in dozens of different trim levels, styles, and configurations. Making matters worse, all of these options also change year over year. Needless to say, car shopping can be overwhelming

Start by figuring out what style of new car you need. Most folks find what they need between sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks. Once you figure out what kind of car you need, then compare trim levels and price points of specific models before talking to a salesperson. This will help you be more confident during the buying process. 

The Family Handyman mentions using online research tools like Kelly Blue Book (KBB) to research a make and model’s estimated value. This can help you not overpay. KBB and Consumer Reports also show recall and reliability history. This information can explain why a model is priced the way it is. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be not to get hosed at the dealership. 

Always take a solo test drive before buying a new car

A used car lot
A private dealership used car lot. | Getty Images

Reading information and talking to knowledgeable sources are great steps to prepare for buying a new car, but nothing can replace driving the specific car you want to buy. Getting hands-on experience with a vehicle can tell you more than hours of reading. 

Whether you are a car enthusiast or you just need something to get from home to work and back, you know best what you’ll like. Test-driving of any kind is important, but test-driving without a salesperson is even more important. 

This isn’t a knock against car salespeople, but you will be able to focus much better without someone trying to sell you the car while driving it. The solo test drive is your time to slow down and pay attention to the things that are important to you. Take your time and really put the car through its paces. 

Can you still work on new cars yourself? 

New cars are highly computerized these days. This didn’t use to be the case. Finding a vehicle that they can work on themselves is a major plus for many car buyers. We understand not everyone wants to work on their own car, but for those who do, keep that in mind when car shopping. Some new cars are easier than others to work on yourself. Take the Ford Maverick, for instance. Ford designed it to pair with DIY 3D printed parts. While this is a bit of a parlor trick, other factors like oil or air filter locations can heavily affect how easily doing your own car maintenance will go. 

Don’t forget to get a free vehicle history report

Totaled Ram truck that was not equipped with auto braking.
Crashed Ram truck | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

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This is not always the most exciting part of buying a new car, but it can be one of the more important parts. Once you finally have the hunt narrowed down to specific units, you should ask the owner or dealer for a vehicle history report. 

These reports can come from CarFax, or you can access the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The NICB site can tell you if a car has ever been reported stolen or written off as a total loss, indicating issues. This step can save you money and, more importantly, the headache of buying a stolen or totaled vehicle. 

Don’t lose sight of the goal

You’ve done the work, found the car you want, and now it’s time to buy it. When the salesperson takes you back to the finance department to do the paperwork, you must remain vigilant. Here, the salesperson may try their best moves to add on some extras. 

This can get confusing and distressing. They will pitch you on things that seem like good ideas; they may even try to sell you on things “you can’t live without.” This isn’t a knock against the salespeople; they are just doing their job. It is up to you to remain firm in your decision and stick to whatever budget you set for yourself. 

The deed is done

Once you make it through this final gauntlet, you have successfully bought your first car. Now, shake off the dealership and enjoy your new ride. 

If you did your research, test drove the car, got a vehicle report, and kept your budget in mind, then enjoying your new car should be the payoff for all the hard work you did. Good luck.