- 10 Car Buying Tips
- 1. Figure out your car budget
- 2. Narrow down your choices
- 3. Do your research before buying a car
- 4. Get a car insurance quote
- 5. Take a test drive
- 6. Get a car inspection
- 7. Wait for the best time to buy a car
- 8. Always negotiate
- 9. Forget the extras
- 10. Two are better than one
- Bonus car buying tip: cars don't equal happiness
- Car Buying and Coronavirus: Tips and Advice | Kelley Blue Book
- Can I buy a car right now?
- Is now a good time to buy a car?
- What’s the best way to buy a new car amid the outbreak?
- What are dealerships doing to keep safe?
- What’s the best way to buy a used car?
- Should I defer my car payment?
- What to do if you can’t make a car payment
- Is it better to buy or lease in this environment?
- Are financing conditions favorable?
- What are the best car deals right now?
- Can I still get my car serviced?
- How long can my car sit undriven?
- Are gas stations still open?
- How might the Coronavirus affect my car insurance?
- Will there be a Cash for Clunkers type of program in 2020?
- Is the DMV still open?
- Can I rent or lease a car during the lockdown?
- Is it safe to buy a car made in a country affected by COVID-19?
- What’s the best way to sell my car right now?
- How should I clean my car amid the coronavirus?
- New Programs and Incentives
- BMW ends European delivery for North American customers
- Porsche Extends Warranties
10 Car Buying Tips
Are you thinking about buying a car this year, but have no idea how to go about it? Buying a car is a big financial decision, and one you shouldn’t just rush through over the course of a weekend.
Start your research with these 10 car buying tips to help you find an affordable car that also fits your lifestyle.
1. Figure out your car budget
Let’s start with a bit of a reality check: new cars drop in value a bag of rocks, losing 60% of their value in the first five years!(1) This isn’t a smart investment. You really should only consider buying new if you have plenty of money to burn.
With that the way, your first step is deciding what you can afford to pay for a car. Leasing a car and going into debt to buy one are both bad ideas, so what you can afford is the amount of cash you can pay up front.
Ready to start saving? Get started with a free trial of Ramsey+ today.
If you don’t have the funds for a used or certified pre-owned car right away, you’ll have to make room in your budget to set money aside each month. Figure out where you can get by on less and how much you can afford to put toward your car fund.
Remember, leasing or financing a car will not help you build wealth. It’s much easier to save around $500 a month (the average car payment(2)) for 10 months and buy a used car with no strings attached. Do you really want to sign up for a payment plan and pay thousands of extra dollars for several years?
Still not convinced? Listen to Dave rant about new cars:
2. Narrow down your choices
Once you’ve decided on a price, start looking at cars that fit your budget. There are plenty of ways to find used cars in your area. Your local dealership ly has a website for you to view the cars they have in stock. And you can check sites Craigslist to see what other cars are on the market.
Narrow down your options to a few cars that fit your price range and needs. Consider factors such as safety, speed, gas mileage, comfort, and how it handles in bad weather. Just because something is a good fit for your wallet doesn’t mean it will work for your lifestyle.
And if a car you love is a little above your budget, go ahead and include it on your list. As a cash buyer, you’ll have the power to negotiate a better price.
Find out how to get the best deal on a car you love! Download our free Car Guide today!
3. Do your research before buying a car
When you find a car you , it’s time to do some research. Look up the Kelley Blue Book value of the vehicle to make sure the price is fair for that year and model.
You should also check each vehicle’s history report. This will tell you the accident history, repair information, potential recalls, and other important information about the car.
Simply request the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from the seller and use a website VehicleHistory.com or Carfax.com to research the car’s history.
Some sites charge for the information they provide. And while paid reports are more comprehensive, free reports will alert you to any major red flags. Some car dealerships or private sellers will also provide a report if you ask. Either way, it’s worth a check. If you get a good deal but end up in the shop every week for maintenance, you’ll spend more money in the long run.
4. Get a car insurance quote
By now, you should have a handful of potential cars that check out history-wise and fit within your budget. But it’s not enough to be able to pay for the car—you’ll also need to make sure you can pay for the insurance that comes with it.
Talk to your current insurance agent about running a few quotes for the cars you have in mind. If the price is too steep, don’t be afraid to consult an independent agent for more options.
Online insurance quote generators can be helpful, but you’ll get a better deal by talking to an insurance agent on the phone or in person. You might even be eligible for discounts you didn’t know existed!
If you want to save even more money on a car, use an Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) to get the best car insurance for your budget. These indepenedent insurance agents shop around to get the best deal on car insurance that’s truly customized to fit your needs. People who use an ELP save an average of $731 a year on insurance premiums.
Find an independent insurance agent today!
5. Take a test drive
Now for the fun part: Take the car for a test drive!
Know exactly what you want before you even step foot in a dealership. And keep an eye out for their upselling tactics! If the dealership doesn't have the car you want but has a budget-breaking similar model with a new sound system and heated seats, it's still not the right car for you.
Once you're ready to get behind the wheel for your test drive, choose a route that allows you to experience different types of driving. The way a car handles on the highway will be different than how it drives in the city. Pay attention to anything that seems odd. Does the car rattle when you go over a bump? Are there any weird noises? These details will help you out in the next step.
6. Get a car inspection
Before you spend a dollar on a used car, take it to a mechanic for a full inspection. Sellers can lie when there’s money on the line. While the car might look and feel fine when you take it around the block, you never know what could be going on under the hood.
Don’t feel awkward about asking for an inspection. This is a routine part of the car-buying process. If the seller is hesitant or gets upset about your request, they probably have something to hide.
7. Wait for the best time to buy a car
According to Autotrader, the best times to buy a car are at the end of the month, during holiday weekend sales, and at the end of each quarter.(3) So plan for sometime around March, June, September, and December. The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) recommends going later in the day and during the week to get an even better deal.(4)
Dealerships are usually hoping to reach their year-end goals, which motivates them to slash prices and move cars before the end of the year.
During the late summer, a lot of dealerships want to sell as many cars as possible to clear space for newer vehicles. Again, you'll want to go later in the month to ensure you are getting the best price possible.
It may seem a simple tip for buying a new car, but waiting for the right time to buy a car can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on the final sales price.
8. Always negotiate
You're at an advantage here for two reasons: You've done your research, and you're paying cash. Give the seller a price you're willing to pay for the car. This price should be lower than what you're actually willing to pay so there's room for you and the seller to meet in the middle.
Negotiation is all about the attitude. You have to act you’re willing to walk away from this car if the seller doesn’t come down in price. It’s Dave always says: If a dealer senses for even a second that you really want a certain car, you won’t get a good deal.
It also helps to see if another third party or dealership is selling the same car for a better price, and bring that to the table. If you get a deal from one seller and take that dollar amount to another seller, they may come down on the cost. If you pay with cash on top of that, you can get an even better deal!
9. Forget the extras
Don’t pay for things that you don’t really need a racing stripe, special detailing, and especially extended warranties. A warranty is not a necessary expense if you have your fully emergency fund in place. That alone will cover any costs you have if the car breaks or has problems.
If you change your mind and want to purchase extras down the line, you can always contact the dealership to negotiate a price. That gives you time to decide which features you really want and which would just be a luxury.
10. Two are better than one
If you need support when you’re ready to buy a car, take a friend or family member who can help steer you in the right direction. They can also help you remember details about the car that the seller tells you, which can help you make a decision. And bring someone who knows a lot about cars if you don’t have much experience with buying and negotiating a car deal.
Bonus car buying tip: cars don't equal happiness
Remember, the purpose of a vehicle is to get you from point A to point B, not to prove your social status to the world. As tempting as it is to hit the road in a car you can’t afford, it’s more ly to be a burden than a blessing—especially if it’s not in your budget.
Chances are, your car isn’t the first thing you think about in the morning or when you go to bed at night. The key to happiness is not a new car, so don’t pay for it it is!
Once you’ve snagged your awesome car deal, you need to look at trying to save even more money on your insurance. Connect with Dave’s Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) to find the best rates on car insurance to fit your budget.
Car Buying and Coronavirus: Tips and Advice | Kelley Blue Book
Even in normal times, buying, selling, owning and driving a car each brings its own joys, challenges, and questions. During a global health crisis the Coronavirus outbreak, there are new challenges in car buying. Here are some tips, advice, and deals for car buying and ownership during this difficult time.
Can I buy a car right now?
That will depend on where you live and the current state of government mandates. Retail sales were recently reclassified as an essential business so car dealerships are beginning to reopen their showrooms.
Call ahead to check the status of the dealership, and remain flexible as this is an ever-changing situation. Also understand that these businesses are complying with government orders.
See how coronavirus is affecting car dealerships.
Is now a good time to buy a car?
It depends on your needs. If you are looking for a traditional sedan or perhaps a 2019 model closeout, yes. The best incentives are on older in-stock vehicles, particularly models that weren’t selling well before the lockdown. Current 2020 year models that were popular before will continue to be in short supply, a situation exacerbated by the 2-month auto production shutdown.
Among these short supply vehicles are current model year pickup trucks and SUVs, particularly new 2- or 3-row crossovers. Some of the biggest rebates and incentives 0-percent financing can be found on 2019 pickup trucks. Some hot brands with low inventories include Subaru and Kia as well as luxury makes Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Buying a used car may be the way to go. Dealers have plenty of used and certified pre-owned inventory.
In April, wholesale prices on used vehicles experienced a considerable drop, so there may be far more room to negotiate a good deal on a used car than a short supply new one.
Don’t expect to see widespread incentives across the industry this Memorial Day Weekend, it will take months for inventories to return to normal levels.
What’s the best way to buy a new car amid the outbreak?
If you need to buy a car amid the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a good chance you still can without setting foot on a dealer’s lot.
A byproduct of the shutdown is that more dealers are embracing digital tools to enable sales without having to show up in person. You can do the bulk of your research online here at KBB.com.
Read this before signing on the dotted line, and here are specific actions to take while shopping for a car amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kelley Blue Book has launched Dealer Home Services, which enables you to see a video walkaround of a car, have a car brought to your home to test-drive, and have home delivery if you choose to purchase.
What are dealerships doing to keep safe?
Automobile dealers have moved quickly to ensure all aspects of their business, including buying, selling and servicing vehicles, is as safe and stress-free as possible amid the coronavirus.
Safety measures have included everything from disinfecting doorknobs, showrooms – and of course the cars in them – to specialized training in best practices for employees. Don’t take offense if the sales associate doesn’t shake hands.
They shouldn’t, and neither should you at this time of social distancing.
Other measures dealerships are taking include a higher reliance on digital tools, and even bringing cars to potential buyers for test drives. See more measures dealerships are taking to ensure the safety of customers and employees.
What’s the best way to buy a used car?
Similar to new-car dealerships, used-car operators have to obey government mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And again, while most remain open, call ahead to confirm the dealership’s status, and be sure to read our 10 Steps to Buying a Used Car.
Should I defer my car payment?
Between the loss of jobs, reduced paychecks, prioritizing other needs, and overall economic uncertainty, many people are weighing the decision to defer car payments amid the coronavirus.
Moreover, some automakers’ finance departments and lenders are offering flexibility and the ability to pay later instead of now.
Is this a good idea? See our guide on car payment deferral amid COVID-19.
What to do if you can’t make a car payment
With jobs and paychecks coming to a screeching halt for more and more people every day, many worry about making their car payment. Whether that’s a monthly payment on a lease or a loan, it’s ly hundreds of dollars – a substantial sum that’s often the second-biggest financial commitment after rent or a home mortgage.
If there’s any consolation amid the coronavirus crisis, it’s that there seems to be an air of understanding about the toll this is taking on our lives, finances included. Just in the past few days, many automakers have rolled out payment support programs.
If you think you will miss a payment, it’s better to take action sooner vs. later. The first thing you should do is contact your lender or your lending institution and advise them of your situation.
Many banks and credit unions have already set up coronavirus relief programs and assistance lines.
So rather than simply miss a payment, contact your lender as soon as possible to figure out a path forward.
This will be in the best interest of not just you, but also the lending institution. The reality is, they don’t want the extra work that comes with filing notices and the possibility of repossessing a vehicle. Communication is key here, as is staying ahead of potential trouble.
Is it better to buy or lease in this environment?
As usual, that will depend on your situation, coronavirus, or not. We advise not just the usual considerations of how many miles you plan to drive in a year and whether you want the ability to modify your car, but also think about your future given the pandemic.
Here’s our guide on whether to buy or lease during the coronavirus pandemic. Be sure to weigh these other buy/lease considerations, too. And here’s a look at how the coronavirus is impacting car sales. If you’re still debating whether to buy or lease in general, read this. And if you decide to lease, read this.
Are financing conditions favorable?
In general, yes. With the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates and the government taking action to stave off a recession, loans are becoming cheaper and thus lending more favorable. Also, due to the uncertainty in general and some dealerships having to suspend sales, there should be plenty of incentives to be had. Be sure to read our 6 Steps to Financing a Car.
What are the best car deals right now?
Automakers are rolling out new incentive programs in response to the coronavirus. Brands are offering measures that range from 0 percent financing to deferred payments and even assurance programs that promise to make car payments in the event of a job loss. See what brands are offering car buyers right here.
Can I still get my car serviced?
The answer is yes. All car repair facilities – including service departments at car dealerships – have been deemed “essential.” If work must be done on your vehicle, we advise calling ahead, confirming the shop is open and making an appointment. Here’s how COVID-19 is affecting dealers service centers.
Also, be sure to read our tips on car maintenance during the coronavirus crisis.
How long can my car sit undriven?
Millions of Americans who observe stay-at-home orders mean fewer miles on our cars. A car that sits can spell trouble for when you need it most. Here’s advice for how to keep your car in shape during the coronavirus.
Are gas stations still open?
Yes. While many businesses are shut because they are deemed “nonessential,” gas stations don’t fall into that category. In fact, gas stations are among the most “essential” operators, as they provide the fuel we need for cars, our primary mode of transportation in America.
It’s also a great time to fill up. Amid the economic fallout and lower crude prices that have resulted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, gasoline prices have fallen.
According to AAA, today’s national average for a gallon is just under $2.13. That’s down nearly 50 cents a gallon from a year ago. Here’s more about plummeting gas prices.
Also be sure to read our tips on staying safe amid the coronavirus when refueling.
How might the Coronavirus affect my car insurance?
With fewer miles being driven as more people stay at home, you might be wondering if that will affect your car insurance. Here are some answers to that question.
Will there be a Cash for Clunkers type of program in 2020?
No formal announcement has been made by the federal government as of early April for a car-buying program “Cash for Clunkers.” But at least one automaker is hoping such an incentive will happen.
Ford has said it would to see another government stimulus plan for the auto industry.
The Car Allowance Rebate System, informally known as “Cash for Clunkers,” took place in the summer of 2009 and offered car owners thousands of dollars toward a new vehicle if they traded in a less fuel-efficient model.
Is the DMV still open?
As with so many other answers these days, it depends. Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles must follow government ordinances. Some close due to emergency ordinances, while others remain open but by appointment only. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s what to know about the DMV before you go.
Can I rent or lease a car during the lockdown?
Yes. The government has deemed the renting and leasing of cars as an “essential” business amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s more information about renting and leasing a vehicle amid the coronavirus.
Is it safe to buy a car made in a country affected by COVID-19?
Yes. If you’re hesitant about buying a car made in one of the countries hit hard by the coronavirus – such as China, South Korea, Italy, or here in the United States — you needn’t fret.
At present, very few vehicles on sale in the United States come from China. The most popular is the Buick Envision SUV. More models come from South Korea, the home countries of Hyundai and Kia. Cars from hard-hit Italy include Alfa Romeos, and others such as the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade crossover SUVs.
Then there is here in the United States, where most major automakers have factories. While more and more automakers idle their U.S. plants amid the pandemic, some note that workers were exposed to the virus before they went into quarantine. Still, this should not be cause for alarm if you are shopping for a new car.
Even if you were to buy one of these vehicles right after it was imported to the United States or came off a U.S. assembly line, the vehicle should be safe.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the coronavirus can live for hours or up to a few days on a surface. But it takes much longer than that for a vehicle to reach a dealer lot. In fact, it can be weeks between the time the automobile leaves the assembly line, ships to America, and travels to a dealer’s lot.
What’s the best way to sell my car right now?
Selling a car at any time can be stressful, and it will be even more so amid a pandemic. Patience is key here, as is understanding. Face-to-face transactions will be more difficult as potential buyers practice social distancing, and some dealerships that would buy your car could be closed by government mandate.
Still, you can sell your car amid this crisis. Here are tips on how to sell your car during the coronavirus.
How should I clean my car amid the coronavirus?
With multiple surfaces that we touch constantly – think your steering wheel, audio dials, climate controls, and the – there are numerous places in a car that can harbor pathogens including the COVID-19 virus. Now more than ever it is vital to keep the inside of your car not just clean but disinfected.
One of the most-effective and least-expensive ways is with isopropyl alcohol (60 percent or higher). To clean and disinfect, wipe the surface with a rag sopped with alcohol. Products you’ll want to avoid using inside your car include bleach or hydrogen peroxide.
While both can kill the coronavirus germs, their harshness can damage materials vinyl and plastic commonly used in cars. For more tips on what and what not to do, click here.
New Programs and Incentives
As the coronavirus spreads, more and more automakers are offering incentives, payment deferrals and other financial assistance. Below are a few examples. For a full list of incentives, payment assistance and other programs, click here.
BMW ends European delivery for North American customers
Another victim of the global COVID-19 pandemic is the end of European delivery of BMW vehicles by North American customers. Automotive News reports that the company has axed the program due to travel concerns and the declining volume of its non-SUV offerings in its U.S. sales.
Customers could order a vehicle through a local dealer in North America for delivery in Europe under a BMW program. It allowed pickup at BMW’s delivery center in Munich and featured 14 days of free insurance and registration and tours of a factory and BMW’s museum. After driving through Europe, customers could drop the vehicle at one of 12 facilities for shipment back home.
If you’re a U.S. healthcare worker, Mazda wants to thank you by giving a free oil change and enhanced cleaning of your vehicle. Notably, you don’t have to be a Mazda owner to receive this offer. The complimentary service was set to run through May 4 but Mazda has extended the offer through June 1, 2020. Read more about Mazda’s free oil change for healthcare workers.
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Porsche Extends Warranties
Porsche is the latest automaker to extend warranty coverage on its vehicles to help consumers who can’t or are reluctant to scheduled covered service during the lockdown. This automatic 3-month extension is being offered to customers in the U.S. and worldwide.
Any warranty set to expire between March and May 2020 will have three months added. For instance, coverage ending May 15 will be honored until August 15.
“We wish to help our customers as we work our way through this unparalleled situationtogether,” said Klaus Zellmer, President, and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, Inc.(PCNA). “The purpose of a warranty is peace of mind, which is something we are happy
to provide at a time when it is needed most.”