Buying a car is a big deal — hey, those things are expensive! And even if picking out a vehicle is one of your most favorite things ever (we know you’re out there and would love your help on a future purchase!), it can still be a bit stressful to navigate researching and buying a car.
But never fear: Summit’s got three tips to help make the process as fast and easy as possible.
Step 1. Decide if now’s the right time to buy.
Sure, sometimes you just need a car N-O-W, but other times a car purchase falls more into the “wouldn’t it be nice?” category. If that’s the case for you, make sure you’re thinking about your current situation and any upcoming changes that could make it harder (a child heading to college) or easier (a new job with a fatter paycheck) to add this expense. A tool that can help: Summit’s Car Buying Budget worksheet online in our Blog & Tools.
Step 2. Get pre-approved.
What you think your budget can handle and the amount you can get a loan for could be two different things. Don’t guess how much you can borrow, find out.
Step 3. Choose your vehicle.
Once you’ve nailed down your budget, it’s time to pick out a vehicle. Ask yourself the following:
What features matter? Consider how you typically use your vehicle. Do you participate in carpool, have more than two kids or haul supplies for work? A minivan or some kind of SUV might be calling your name. Do you take a lot of long-distance trips? Maybe comfort, a great sound system or amazing gas mileage matter most. And consider who’s likely to be using the vehicle most of the time. Our vote is that the most frequent occupant(s) should get the most say, but we’ll leave that up to you to negotiate!
What will it cost to own this car? The monthly loan payment is just the beginning; think about depreciation, gas, maintenance/repairs and insurance too. Check out our earlier blog post with a three-step plan to get a handle on car-related costs. And think about this: a car that seems out of your budget might actually be more affordable than you think when you compare these expenses.
Which vehicle drives better? All the online research in the world can’t replace actually getting into a vehicle. Check out multiple vehicles and do your test-drives back-to-back so it’s easier to compare. Schedule test-drives on a weekday morning when car lots tend to be empty. Stress that you’re still in the research phase of your car purchase (which could make it easier to avoid spending more time than you’d like with sales staff).
Summit has two great tools that can help pick a vehicle: Our Concierge service is like having a personal assistant to help you find a car and a loan. Or use Summit’s online tools to research vehicles, rebates and loan deals.
Your best vehicle is out there waiting! And Summit’s here to help get you behind the wheel.
Smart money tips brought to you by Red SHOES, Summit’s exclusive financial wellness program.