Getting In Gear for Your Next Car Purchase

by Debra Karplus

Is it time to trade in your old car for something newer? Here is what you need to consider before making that next car purchase.

For the past 14 years, you’ve loved your sedan that’s transported kids, lumber, and most of your personal belongings when you moved to your new house. It’s been a reliable vehicle, but now it has over 93,000 miles. You promised yourself not to put more money into that car beyond routine maintenance, but when you went for a tire rotation, you discovered that your tires were bald. New tires could cost about $600!

The decision has been made. It is time to trade and get a new car.

Car-Buying Has Changed

Buying a car is different from your experience a decade ago. You can still buy new (this year or last year’s model) or used, or you can lease. However, today’s cars, even some of the least expensive, have standard features that are new in car models of recent years. This is mostly true in the electronics, such as back-up camera, automatic lights, and even reminders of when an oil change, tire inflation, or other service is needed.

Begin Your Search before Going to the Dealership

As you drive around town, look at other cars on the road or in parking lots and get an idea of what is out there. Ask friends about their cars. Look online at different models, including consumer ratings. Consider how you will use your car at this life stage; determine desired size of seating and cargo area.

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How Much Can You Afford? And How Will You Finance It?

Decide if you will keep, trade-in, or independently sell your current vehicle. Decide how you’ll pay for your new car. If you can pay cash, that is great! There are no tax advantages to financing a car unlike financing a house.

Most people need to finance a new vehicle. Although the car dealer can work with you on financing, typically their interest rates are higher than those you chase down independently. Call your bank and other lending institutions to find out the current interest rate on car financing. While you are there, find out the wholesale and retail price on the car you plan to trade-in.

Anonymously, call the car dealer that you expect to buy from and ask if you can pay for some of the car via credit card. Maybe the cash back or miles on your credit card make paying for some of the car using plastic financially sensible. Then call your credit card company to make sure your credit limit is high enough based on how much you expect to put down on the car plus all other current outstanding unpaid credit card purchases. Now you have the financial tools in place to calculate what bottom line you’re after for paying for your new vehicle.

The Actual Car Purchase is Relatively Easy If You’ve Done Your Homework

When you enter the car dealership, never forget that they need you more than you need them. You do not need to buy today, and you do not need to buy from them! And remember the bottom line you decided to pay. Expect that their number will be higher than yours, and that your salesman will need to make umpteen visits to speak with the sales manager. If you stick with your plan, you are likely to get what you want.

Be sure you’ve first test driven the car in town and on the highway. Is the seat comfortable enough for whatever back ailment you might have? If you are of tiny stature, can you adequately see above the dashboard on today’s taller cars? Is the cargo area adequate, especially if you take road trips or carry large items?

Don’t Forget these Last Minute Tasks

There are a few last minute tasks to do before you drive off in your new car.

Be sure to call your car insurance agent and give them the VIN number and specifications about the new car. Gather from home all the keys and the title of the car if it’s paid off. And clean out every cubbyhole of the car you are trading. Don’t forget your garage door remote, sunglasses, parking stickers for your place of work, and other small, easily forgettable items.

Reviewed September 2019

About the Author

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (Kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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