Tips, Tricks & Trends

Consumer Reports: Tips for Buying Your First Car

Buying a car can be intimidating, but buying a new-to-you vehicle when you’ve never purchased one can be more daunting than anything. There are so many options and so much technical jargon that it’s hard even to understand what’s going on. On top of that, a lot of car dealerships carry a bad reputation for ripping customers off — though some sales teams are great to work with. There are a few tips and tricks that can make your car shopping experience less stressful, and you can use them for buying your first car or fifth.

Decide on your budget

Buying a car doesn’t have to be expensive, but there are a lot of costs that you should take into consideration. The first price to consider is the car itself, and this one is one you’ll probably have to reevaluate after the rest of the costs pile up. The sticker price on a vehicle is usually negotiable to a point, but you want to buy something that you can comfortably afford. The next factor to consider is how expensive maintenance for your car will be because not all vehicles are created equal. Some cars have much more costly repairs as well as maintenance costs, and the last thing you want to do is buy a car that you can’t afford to fix when something goes wrong.

Young teenage girl showing off her keys |Education Images/Universal Images Group

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The next cost is how much insurance you can afford monthly. Coverage is based on several things, but the price can also be affected by the age of the car, the safety features it has, or even the type of car — where sports cars are typically more expensive than your standard sedan. When writing out a budget, it’s essential to pay attention to all of these costs because, while some are more frequent than others, the additional costs can add up just as fast as the sticker price.

Take a test drive, and don’t settle

Taking a car on a test drive can sometimes happen with rose-colored glasses. I’m guilty of falling victim to a vehicle that ended up being a wrong purchase in the end just because I was so excited to be buying it. I cared more about purchasing the car than I did about buying that specific car, and instead of waiting for one that had fewer problems, I settled, and end up paying a fortune for repairs.

Buying New Vehicle
A woman works with sales manager | Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg

Test driving a handful of cars, even cars you might not be interested in, can give you a wide variety of opinions, and you can learn what you specifically like and don’t like. Driving different cars allows you to experience different ride qualities and help you figure out what you want from a vehicle. Some drivers care about the sporty driving experience, while some value fuel efficiency over acceleration. It all comes down to personal preference, so test driving as many cars as possible gives you the chance to decide what you like.

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Most of all, have fun! Buying your first car can be scary, but it can also be one of the most exciting experiences. For many people, your first car is your first step toward independence, and it can be a significant experience. As long as you make an informed purchase and it’s something you love, your first car will likely be a great experience in your life.