How to Find the Right Car for You
It's a significant moment in your life when it is time to get a car all on your own. However, now you have this daunting task in front of you. This article is meant to help you understand the car-shopping process to give you a clear set path onto how to go about it!
Step 1: Create and understand your budget
If you are lucky enough to pay your car off in full then that’s awesome, however most people need to look into financing options if they want to purchase or lease their vehicle. You must create a monthly budget that looks into how much money you can afford each month to cover all car expenses like car payments, car insurance, gas, etc. You must look into rules like making sure your car payment does not exceed 15% of your monthly income for buying a car, and 10% if you’re leasing. Once you create your monthly budget and have a clear understanding as to what you can afford each month, it is now time to look into the right car for your lifestyle.
Step 2: Knowing what car you're looking for
While superficial aspects of a car can play somewhat of a sizable role in picking out a car, you first must look at the practicality of the car you need. Understanding how many passengers will typically be in your car, how many miles do you drive a week, what does the car need for fuel, what kind of roads are you going to be driving on, the kind of drive do you want, and are there any specific features you want in the car. Once you find the answers to these questions you will be able to have a better idea of what kind of car you're looking for that can fit into your monthly budget.
Step 3: Are you going to lease or buy?
Now that you know your monthly budget and have a car in mind, it is now time to decide whether or not leasing or buying would be best for you. When you are leasing, you can drive a more expensive car for less money. Most repairs will be covered under factory warranty, but you can have mileage penalties for excessive driving, and you need to get a new car after every lease term. When you’re buying a car, you have more flexibility to sell the car whenever you want to, you can modify the car however you'd like, there are no mileage penalties if you drive a lot, and if you keep your car for a while the expenses end up overall being lower even though they were initially more expensive.
Step 4: Going to get your car
Now that you have a full comprehensive idea on your monthly budget, whether you'll buy or lease, and what car you want, you are now ready to go look for that car! Utilizing websites like Cars.com or Edmunds.com, you are able to look through new or used cars with your specifications from car color, to mileage on the car, to fuel economy, and any other criteria you have in mind for the car you want. There are pros and cons to whether you choose a private seller or a dealership, so take those into consideration when choosing where to get your car. After you find either a dealership or private owner it is now time to set up a test drive!
Step 5: Setting up a test drive
Get into contact with either the private seller or dealership to set up a day and time to test drive the vehicle. Making sure that you call ahead ensures that the car will be available for you to test drive. It is a rule of thumb to test drive at least three different vehicles before deciding on what car to get. If you allot a whole day of car shopping with back to back test drives then you can easily compare which car you preferred, keeping notes on pros and cons of each car on how it handled, how the interior felt, etc. this will make the car choosing process a bit easier.
Step 6: Buying the car
Now that you've test driven the minimum of three cars it is now time to choose the car you want to purchase/lease. This is where financing comes into play. Before going into a dealership, you should know your credit score, this will give you an idea of getting approved. If your monthly budget allows $250 a month and your car purchase is $5000, you should have down payment in mind. It will be more depending on your credit score; a lower score means a higher down payment that is needed for the loan. You should bare minimum pay 20% of the loan as a down payment so in this case, a $5000 vehicle means you would be paying $1000. Usually the length of the car loan is around 3-6 years, with longer loan repayment options available as well. You can opt for a longer-term repayment plan which makes your monthly payment overall less, but you end up paying more in financing costs in the end. However, you can opt in for a shorter-term lease especially if dealerships offer zero-percent financing. This makes the monthly payments higher but ends up being less in total overall.
Step 7: Drive home in your new car
Congratulations! You just bought a car all by yourself! You are one step closer to financial independence. Make sure that you stay on top of car costs and drive responsibly. Enjoy your new car!