You’ve been dreaming of this moment since your first Matchbox car. Make owning your first car a painless and exciting reality by taking our advice on how to make your first car purchase as smooth as possible.
Should You Buy a New Used Car or a New New Car?
Deciding whether to buy new or used can be a difficult one, but you can make it easier by considering why and for what you need your car. Do you need the car for work? For school? For travel? How far will you go in the car? These things matter, but the fact of the matter is that we recommend a used car no matter what your answer to the above questions.
Used cars are cheaper, plain and simple. Even if you have scrimped and saved for your first car, spending all that money on an exciting new car is not likely necessary. Most used cars can still be gas efficient, clean, good-looking, fast, and shiny, comfortable for travel… in short, many used cars are as good as new. Not only that, but new cars lose their value the instant you drive them off the lot. If your shiny, new car isn’t as gas efficient or fast as you hoped, or if you don’t like it and want to resell it for any reason, you will be forced to sell it for much less than you bought it for. Not so with a used car, which retains its value… or at least often retain the value for which you bought them far longer.
Also, as a new car buyer, we assume you may be a new driver as well. Is this correct? If so, a used car will already potentially have a few dings or dents that aren’t your fault. This may make it easier on your conscience to add a few dings or your own… which you may inevitably do as you keep learning safer and safer ways to avoid bad drivers.
In short, you can still get a fast convertible or a sleek, red car with the latest gadgets even if you buy a used car… and you can get it far cheaper. We don’t see many reasons that a new car is necessary. Unless, of course, you want one.
Make a Budget
The best way to determine what kind of car you want, whether new or used, is to determine how much you can or will spend before you start shopping. If your income dictates that your car-buying budget is $10,000, this may preclude the possibility of a new car, but it will set you on the path to finding the best used car for you. Also, consider not just the cost of the car and what you can afford now, but what you can afford for the long run. As well as the initial costs, you will also likely have monthly payments, insurance costs, licensing fees, and any maintenance or repair costs to consider. Therefore, if you do shop used, make sure that the car doesn’t need repairs and has been well-maintained. It is true that newer cars have not had any wear on their parts. Again, no matter which route you choose, new or used, you can stay within your budget if you know what to expect and pre-determine what you can and can’t afford.
Financing Your Car
Be sure to include in your budget what you can afford monthly, and remember: saving up for a larger down payment up front often means lower monthly rates and/or lower interest rates.
You must have insurance, and new driver insurance can be pricey. Be sure to do your research and shop around for quotes to determine who will give you the best rates on car insurance. We recommend to new (and experienced) drivers that you consider being added to the insurance policy of your parent or spouse. This could significantly reduce the cost of your insurance and could even make your spouse or parent eligible for group discounts.
Where Do You Start Looking for New Cars?
There are plenty of options. You can go to:
- A car dealership
- A private or individual seller
We say… why not all three? Although dealerships traditionally have high markups and artificially expensive prices, you can still test drive cars you’re interested in and then head back home to shop online for private parties or individuals that are selling similar cars for far less money. Visiting a dealership can also give you a good ballpark range for the top price you should be paying for a vehicle. A private seller or online company that charges more for a car than a dealership (and without the kind of warranties offered by dealerships) may not be giving you the best deal. Having a baseline number to use for dealership/online/private seller comparisons is imperative in finding a good deal on your first vehicle.