A few weeks ago, my daughter was in a car accident and totaled her car. We are grateful that she was okay, but it began the long process of finding a new car to replace it. I think buying a car is pure torture! But hopefully some of these tips will help your next car shopping experience go a little smoother.
What can you afford?
First and foremost, what can you afford? I learned from Dave Ramsey that you should not buy a brand new car unless you are super rich. He also recommends that you don’t lease a car. The ideal situation is to save for what you want and then find a nice used car in your price range. You don’t need brand new! We have been able to pay cash for our vehicles and it has been such a blessing! If you can’t afford it, don’t get it!
What kind of car do you need?
- Size. How big should you go? When I was pregnant with my 3rd child, we took all three car seats and put them in the back of our sedan. We couldn’t shut the door! That was when we decided to get a minivan. Minivans are awesome for families! They are amazing for carrying lots of things and people. Ours can fit so much when we go camping or on trips! They are also great for carpools when you need extra seats. We could even fit 2x4s in it when we were finished our basement.
- Features. There are so many cool features in newer cars. But try to focus on what you really need. We have a Toyota Sienna AWD. This has been an important feature for us because we explore a lot and end up on many dirt roads. Do you need it to get great gas mileage? My friend is always cold so to her the most important feature was heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Make a list of the most important features you will need and start there.
- Purpose of the car. Will it be a commuter car for your husband, a family transport vehicle, or a student car? That makes a huge difference in what you will need. My daughter really wanted a smaller car that would she could fit in and see well out of. Consider gas mileage, trunk size, manual or automatic, etc.
- Additional costs to consider. How much will insurance be? SUVs and certain brands will cost more in insurance. You can call your insurance agent to verify costs. Adding additional drivers can also be very expensive even with a good student discount. There are also taxes, dealer fees, and registration fees to consider. How many miles to the gallon?
- When do you need additional vehicles? As your kids get older and have to be in lots of places at the same time, it is so helpful for me as a mom to have another vehicle. I didn’t realize how much we used our 3rd vehicle until it was gone.
Where do you start looking?
Once you have an idea of what you are looking for-van, suv, sedan, etc. The next step is to do your homework and start looking. You need to learn more about the car you want to buy.
- Look Online First. Research the car you want online first. Look up styles, features, average cost and miles, reviews on that type of car, etc. Some places to start are Kelly Blue Book, Craigslist, or local dealership websites. Search used cars in your area and it will bring up other sites with car sales. Check on social media. Ask your friends and family what they like about their vehicles or if they know someone who might be selling one. You can ask online or call about cars you are interested in. Search most reliable cars in your price range.
- Make a list. Write down places that have cars that you are interested in and the color, make, model, mileage, features, and price of each vehicle. I like to group them together by areas so we can hit all the dealerships that are near each other. Also, it is good to take notes on what you liked about the cars and it helps me compare features and prices. It was harder to pull up each website on my phone while we were driving around so a master list was very helpful to me.
Take the family. Time for a field trip! When you aren’t sure what size or model to get, take your family to help narrow it down. My daughter had to sit in each vehicle so she could tell which car fit her best. Having all 5 of us there helped us rule out several cars that just felt too small. We ended up getting a Hyundai Accent because it just felt a little bit bigger inside even though it was a similar size to the other ones we tried. Be sure to check out car seats and see how they fit. My kids are really great at testing all the lights, windows, and seat belts, to make sure everything works and giving their opinions of each car.
Keep at it! As they say, you have to kiss a lot of toads to meet your prince. You will have to drive a lot of lemons before you find the right car. We actually had a car die on us while on a test drive! NOT FUN! But be patient and keep at it. You will really appreciate a good car when you find it. Don’t be afraid to hurt the salesman’s feelings. Be honest. It’s okay to tell them you aren’t interested.
Look Carefully! When you find a car you like do an overall examine of the car. Look for dents, dings, scratches. Check out the CarFax report on it. Most dealers will have that for you to see. Has it been in an accident? Was it a rental? Was it well maintained? Does it have a clean title? Does it smell funny? Listen to the car. Does it make any unusual noises? I’m not a fan of reconstructed titles unless you know who did the work. Dave Ramsey has a great used car check list.
Don’t test drive a car that costs more than you can afford. If you drive the newer and better it will make you want the newer and better. Focus on what you really need and try not to get distracted by the pricey cars.
Dealer Policies. I always ask ahead of time what protections they give us if we purchase a vehicle. Like when we bought our van, they said we had 7 days to return it if it didn’t pass our mechanic’s check. The place where we just bought a car said that they would give 45 days and they would fix any major issues like the transmission in that time. Some places give no returns. I would recommend always having a trusted mechanic check it out before you buy it. That gives me added peace in purchasing the vehicle.
Pray. Seriously this is the most helpful thing in our search for a vehicle. Things that are important to you are important to God. Pray to find a good, reliable car. Pray to know if you should get that specific car. He will help you know what to do.
I wish you all the best with car shopping. It still is a nightmare for me, but it is so nice once you finalize everything and you can drive a new car. Do you have any car buying tips that help you?