Congrats—you’re ready to purchase your first real car!
The process can be daunting when you don’t know what to expect, so let us walk you through the process. Follow our guidelines for a stress-free ride!
1. Determine if you really need a car
OK, you weren’t expecting this, but it’s important to take a step back to review your actual transportation needs. If you’re still in college, lots of college towns have a great bus system in place, which can save you loads on car costs. Also, if your campus has everything you need within walking distance, it can be cheaper to use a car service like Uber or Lyft when you need a ride instead of taking on car ownership. If you don't really need a car to get around, you can keep that extra cash in your savings account for something else instead.
2. Know your budget
If you’ve determined that a car purchase is necessary at this point in your life, don’t start hunting for your dream car until you’ve worked out a realistic budget. Take a hard look at your other monthly expenses to see how much you can spare for a new set of wheels. Consider a used car over a much more expensive new car for your first purchase. Don’t forget to include some cash for auto insurance, gas, and maintenance.
3. Create a tentative wish list
This is your first car, so it doesn’t need to have all the latest fancy options. You need something to look forward to on your next car. Sit down and make a list of all the “must haves” and “wants” you’re looking for in a vehicle. Determine how much each feature would cost you in a car and decide which are really important.
4. Obtain financing
If you’ve been saving up cash for your first car all through high school, you’re a smart student! If you don’t quite have all the money you need to buy your car, you can take out an auto loan. Check out Genisys Credit Union to learn about your auto loan options and find out how much we can pre-approve you for. This will help in your car selection and shopping process.
5. Research your options
You’re ready to start looking for a vehicle that will satisfy your needs and wants. You can research new and used car values and obtain vehicle ratings on sites like NadaGuides.com and create another list that contains your top three choices of car makes and models.
6. Look up listings
Start scavenging for listings of your car choices online and in your neighborhood. A great used car site for quality pre-owned vehicles is Carvana.com. Once you’ve found several that might work, research their histories on Carfax.com and then contact the seller to set up a test drive.
7. Take it for a spin
If a car checks out and everything looks good, you’re going to want to take it for a test drive. Pay attention to details like legroom, acceleration, brake functionality and more while you drive.
8. Have it inspected
If you’re purchasing a used vehicle, it’s best to have it inspected by a mechanic before signing the purchase agreement. Any reputable seller should agree to this and if not, it might be a red flag.
9. Make it official
If your car has passed the test drive and inspection, you’re ready to make it official! Be sure to read all documents before signing and obtain insurance before your first joyride.
Our eBook, “Buying Your 1st Car” is a great resource to learn more about the car buying process. Enjoy your new set of wheels and drive safely!
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