This post is sponsored by cars.com. All opinions in this post are those of Smart Mom Smart Ideas.
A few weeks ago, very unexpectedly my husband’s car had a major engine issue. We took the car to several repair shops for price estimates and very few shops said they would not even do the repair, it would take several weeks to complete and it was going to cost several thousand dollars. The car was over 10 years old. After weighing our options, we decided it would be better to replace the car than continue spending more money on expensive repairs.
Let me be honest, one of my least favorite life experiences is purchasing a car. I really do avoid this experience as much as possible. It’s no fun spending my weekend going to car dealerships, working with car salesmen and then waiting while the sales manager does “funny stuff” with numbers to make me think I am getting a good deal. If you are like me and you don’t enjoy car purchases and negotiations, most likely, you will still need to buy a car from time to time (we’re not going to walk or ride a bicycle everywhere right?). When you have to buy a car, you can make a smart car purchase. Today, I’m sharing 7 tips to save money on a car purchase.
7 Money Saving Tips When Purchasing a Car
Look Before You Shop
When you know it’s time that you will have to buy another car, while you are driving around town look at the cars and styles you see. What do you like? What do you dislike? For me, my last car was a minivan, I knew the next car would not be a minivan. I did not like that car style, I wanted something different.
This is just the “look” stage. You might find there is a brand you don’t like, guess what, then you don’t have to go to that dealership when you are shopping. The “look” stage doesn’t have to be long, just a few days.
I recommend looking around at real cars, not just pictures online. You want to like the look of your car in person, not just in a picture.
Don’t Rush Your Decision
Now that you have a few ideas of the types and styles of cars you like, you can go online and start researching prices, features and what dealerships have these cars available.
Cars.com is a great place to start. At Cars.com, you can research all makes and models of cars available in your area on one website. You can compare prices, features, and more. You will also find helpful resources for first-time car buyers (and all car owners) like this article 6 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Bought My First Car. New parents will love this post on how to do a car seat safety check too.
Since our car was basically undrivable and we needed 2 cars, we didn’t have a long time to choose a replacement car. But, we didn’t rush out the first night and buy another car. We did take a few days to research cars.
Know What Features You Want or Need
Before you start looking at actual cars, decide in your mind what features are required in the car and what is negotiable? Do you want a car or an SUV? How many passengers do you usually need to seat? Do you want a sunroof/moonroof? What safety features do you need?
If you are purchasing a used car, what is most important? Low mileage? How was the car maintained?
Answering some of these before you start visiting dealerships will help you focus on some cars and eliminate other cars right away.
When purchasing a car, there are so many choices it can overwhelm you. That’s why it’s important to narrow down some of your choices before you start the actual shopping.
Once you actually find a car you like, remember to consider alternatives. Is this the best price? Does this car meet my needs? Don’t get caught up in the “buying” experience. It can be fun to drive new cars and see all the new features (especially when your current car is 10 years old or older, you will be shocked by all the features in newer cars).
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Test Drive, Test Drive, Test Drive
Test driving is important. You want to know you like how the car handles. In my husband’s case, you don’t bump your head every time you get out of the car (yes, we had 2 cars where he would bump his head every time he got in or out).
Here are some more questions to consider when test driving:
- Does the car have blind spots?
- Are the controls/buttons in places that make sense or will they be hard to use?
- If it’s a new car, does the technology work for you (i.e. are you tech savvy or do you prefer a dial radio)?
I also suggest that if you are considering different cars even if they are the same type of car, test drive every car you car considering. You might find you prefer one and not another, I did when I did my test drives.
Don’t Accept the First Sales Offer
When it comes to negotiating price, this probably the part you just want to skip, right? You just wish you and the salesman could have a nice talk and come to an agreeable price.
Here’s my first tip, decide in your mind what price you want to pay for the car. This price should be based on research and the market value of the car. If you are making a trade, know what the value of your trade is too.
Avoid negotiating to a “payment”. I have found over and over again at car dealerships they will try to get me to agree to a payment. The problem is I am never happy with the outcome and usually feel like I have paid too much.
Focus on the price of the car and the bottom line cost to you. When you get to the price you want to pay and the bottom line is right, the monthly payment will be right too (if you are financing a car).
Choose Your Own Financing
It’s also helpful to either get financing approved before you shop with your own lender or know your credit scores, so you know what type of interest rate you might get. I suggest choosing your own lender if financing.
Car dealerships are able to finance with many banks and credit unions onsight for you, ASK for your lender. If you have preferred lender, make sure you get to use your lender. You will be shocked by the difference in the interest rates you get. When we recently purchased a car, the dealers “best” offer was 4.7% interest, but our bank offered us 2.25%. Don’t miss this detail, it can cost you.
It’s Okay to Walk Away
This is a bonus tip. After all your research, test driving, negotiating, if you don’t like the deal, just walk away. You will be happier walking away from a bad deal or a so-s0 deal than accepting a deal that in your heart of hearts you felt like you were getting cheated.
Here’s a true story, a few years ago we were considering trading one of our cars. We went through the entire process I describe in this post to find a car, at the end we didn’t like the price the dealer offered us (and they really frustrated me too). So, we just said no, thank you this is not for us and walked away. The dealership called us for 2 weeks trying to get us to come back. We didn’t want the car at that point, so we didn’t call back. But if it had been something we really loved, this might have been another chance to negotiate.
After all, it is all about taking the pain out of your next car deal.