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5 Tips You Need to Know When Buying a Car

Whether you?re thinking of replacing your worn out ride with a brand new set of wheels or you just need something a little more dependable to get you from A to B, buying a car is a big decision. Unfortunately, the car-buying process is often much more difficult than it should be. But, by following these five tips, you?ll be smiling behind the wheel of a new car in no time.

What Can You Afford?

When shopping for a car, it?s easy to get dazzled by the idea of leather seats, navigation and high performance engines, but can you really afford that kind of a car?

Before you visit a or browse the Internet for great deals, you need to figure out how much car you can afford.

Conventional wisdom tells us that you can safely afford to purchase a vehicle, whether new or used, that comes out to 20% of your annual salary. So, if you earn $50,000 a year that would come out to $10,000.

Another option is to try a car affordability calculator like the one from These calculators take into consideration loan rates, trade-in values and down payments. The big caveat you should be aware of is the calculator doesn?t take into account how much money you earn; it simply asks how much of a payment you feel you can afford.

When figuring out how much of a car you can afford, the best bet is to crunch the numbers. Look at your budget, get a feel for what you can comfortably spend on a car payment each month and stick to that amount through the entire car-buying process.

Research, Research, Research

If you ever took a research class in college, you know that research is time consuming, tedious and often leads to popping a few Tylenol. However, this is one area that people often skip and pay for it later.

If you don?t care to throw your money away, simply walk into any car dealership and they?ll gladly take you for all your worth. But, if you?d like to get the most bang for your buck, you need to spend a little bit of time getting a game plan together.

First off, you need to decide if you want to buy a new or used car. Do a little research and figure out which option best suits your needs.

Secondly, what kind of car do you want? Do you want a sports car, an SUV, a minivan, or a sedan? Does gas mileage matter to you? Does dependability make a difference to you? Once you know what you?re in the market for, visit sites like to find out valuable info on the kind of car you?re interested in.

By the time you visit the dealership, you should be as well informed as the salesperson.

Check or Cash?

For the majority of us, we don?t have the ability to walk into a dealership and slap down a big pile of cash for a car. Instead, we need a little bit of help in financing our latest acquisition. The question becomes, what?s the best deal?

If you need to finance your vehicle, you have a few options.

Because you?re now an educated buyer, don?t be that person that automatically fills out a credit check form at the dealership. You?re better than that!

While you?re researching the kind of car you want to buy, go ahead and research auto rates, as well. If you?ve decided on a new car, see what kind of special rates manufacturers are offering by visiting their websites. Check out local banks and credit unions for competitive rates. Even companies like Capital One and Chase Finance are now offering pre-approved auto loans.

An important step in the game of auto finance is to know your credit score as this is what determines what interest rate you?ll get. If you don?t know what your score is, visit a site like to see your score for free.

If you?re able to get approved before you walk onto the lot, you?re well ahead of the game.

Should I Lease?

When car leasing first came out, a lot of people dismissed the idea immediately. Why would you want to throw your money away each month by simply renting a car for three years? However, leasing a car is a viable option. Here?s why.

In your research process, you need to visit auto manufacturer?s websites. These sites will show you the latest models, current financing specials and rebates, as well as car leasing options. The good news about leasing is you can get into a brand new car at a much lower monthly cost that buying the car outright.

So, what?s the catch?

Honestly, there isn?t a catch. But, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of.

Not every model of car is available to be leased. Typically, the most popular models can be leased.

You?ll need to have some money to put down. Occasionally, a manufacture will offer the option to lease a car with no money down, but they?ll typically ask between $2,000 to $4,000 down. The fine print will tell you the exact amount. The good news is that this amount can usually be covered with a trade-in.

How long do you plan on keeping your car? If you want to have your car until the wheels fall off, then leasing a car probably isn?t for you. But, if you like the idea of being able to have a new car every three years at an affordable price, then leasing might be worth checking out.

Can You Really Buy a Car Online?

Now that you?ve done all of your homework, you need to actually find your next car. But, does that mean you should buy your next car online?

The answer to this question is yes and no. For some people, the idea of buying a car online is terrifying. For others, it can be a thrill. Personally, I bought a car on eBay sight-unseen and it worked out great. But, that?s not always the best route.

Essentially, use the Internet to find the best deal on your next car. Dealerships will list their inventory online and often have a lower price listed. Sites like allow you to search for cars in a specified radius and even show if the asking price is a good deal based on the value of the car.

Buy With Confidence

Purchasing a car is a big step. While the process can seem daunting, these steps should give you the confidence you need to get the very best deal on your next car.

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About Jonathan Hubbs I'm Jonathan Hubbs and I have over a decade's worth of experience in banking and the financial field. When I'm not writing about money, I'm spending time with my wife and two daughters, who definitely know how to spend my money!

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