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What to Do Before Buying a Car

Information You Can Find in Our Guide:

Our free guide will help you understand the steps you have to take and how to obtain the benefits you are looking for.

What to Do Before Buying a Car

When purchasing a car, it is essential to have a checklist you can follow.

Buying a car can be an overwhelming and time-consuming process, but a checklist can help you stay on track and be well-equipped. It should not only include what to bring when buying a car but also the necessary steps to take beforehand.

Information You Can Find in Our Guide:

Our free guide will help you understand the steps you have to take and how to obtain the benefits you are looking for.

Before buying a new or used car, research is key. You must search for cars that fall within your budget while having the features you need. For used vehicles, research includes performing vehicle identification number (VIN) checks.

Before creating a car buying checklist, you must first consider the costs involved with the purchase. Depending on your financial status, you may need to finance your vehicle for a few years before you can own it. With this in mind, you must know how financing works and if it is the right decision for you. To understand how buying a car works, review the following sections.

What do I need to know before buying a car?

If you are wondering what to do before buying a car, the first of many things to do when buying a new car is setting your budget. Having a budget for your purchase creates a baseline for the cars you will be looking at. It allows you to narrow down your list of options so that you are left with realistic choices.

A good rule of thumb to follow is only using up to 20 percent of your take-home pay on your monthly car payment. If you are financing a vehicle, your interest rate will play an important role in your monthly payments. However, you can get an idea of what to expect through research.

If you are wondering, “What do I need to know before buying a car?” The process is different for used and new cars. Once you know your budget, you can determine if a used or new car is right for you and follow the right steps.

Before creating a used or new car buying checklist, you will need to know what features you want. Car brands build vehicles for specific purposes and audiences in mind. For instance, some cars are targeted toward people with children and come with family-friendly features, such as built-in vacuums, rear-view cameras and hands-free trunk lift gates.

Other cars have turbochargers and four-wheel steering built for sports car enthusiasts. With this in mind, it is helpful to build a checklist of your must-have features before buying a new car from a dealer or a used car from a private seller.

How does financing a car work?

As you search for the car you want, you must consider the financial commitment that will accompany it. Financing is a great option, if you are unable to pay the full cost of a car upfront. “How does financing a used car work?” you may ask.

Financing a new or used car entails borrowing money from a lender, such as a bank or credit union, to pay the cost of a car over time. There are two main ways to finance a car: through direct lending or dealership financing.

With the former, you borrow money from a financial institution directly and use the loan to purchase the car. With dealership financing, you apply for a loan through the dealership and make monthly payments toward the cost of the car along with a financing fee.

How does car financing work on used cars from private sellers? Since private sellers typically require you to pay the full price of the car when purchasing it, you will need to finance the purchase through a third-party lender. However, if you have a personal relationship with the seller, you may be able to work out an agreement that allows you to make monthly payments until you have paid the full cost.

If using this method, be sure you have a written and signed contract that outlines the rules of the agreement. Having proper documentation is one of the most important things to do before buying a used car from a private seller.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Car Checklist

If you are considering buying a used car, you may have many questions, such as “How long does it take to buy a car?” and “What should I check when buying a used car?” The answer will vary depending on the seller.

If purchasing from a dealership, it can take several hours to complete the purchase of the car. This is because dealerships typically check your credit score, determine your loan rates and draft paperwork. As such, it can be a lengthy process. However, it is generally much shorter with a private seller, who does not have as many procedures to follow.

Find a list of what to do before buying a used car below:

  • Perform a VIN check – Every car has a unique VIN. It tells you what you should know before buying a used car, such as its accident and owner history, recalls, title status and mileage along with other details. Getting a VIN report on a vehicle you want to buy can indicate if it is worthy purchasing or if you should continue your search. 
  • Inspect the vehicle – If buying a used car from a private seller or dealership, you may not know what is happening under the hood. If you know a mechanic, be sure to bring him or her with you to check out the vehicle. Mechanics are able to spot red flags that you may not see and can use their years of experience to check off items on your used car buying inspection checklist.
  • Document everything – While this does not fall under tips for buying a used car from a dealer, it is necessary when buying from a private seller. You will need a bill of sale to document the purchase and the car title to transfer ownership.

If you are buying a car privately, a checklist will ensure you complete the tasks necessary so that you are making the right choice.

New Car Buying Checklist

Having a car buying checklist is crucial to having a smooth and easy purchasing process. However, you will need to tailor it to match your needs. Conducting research is a major part of buying a vehicle and should be in a “buying a used car” checklist and a new car checklist.

Once you know what features you want in a vehicle and your budget, you can start to narrow down your list of car brands and models. This can be a very time-consuming process, as it requires comparing cars and reading reviews. During your research, you may also find dealerships with special sales that can benefit you.

Negotiating is also pivotal to getting a good price when you purchase a car. The ability to negotiate comes after conducting your research. It allows you to use what you know to get a lower price. You can use competing bids from other dealerships to drive the price down. If you get pre-approved for a loan before going to the dealership, you can also use it as leverage for a lower price.

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