There’s a first time for everything, and that includes shopping for a new car. Even for seasoned professionals, walking into a dealership with the intent of purchasing a vehicle that has just recently come off the assembly line can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be — especially with the advent of the Internet, many tools are at your disposal to make things easier than ever. Here are some steps we recommend you follow before taking the plunge.
Research, research, research
All major manufacturers nowadays have websites detailing all the current models they offer, complete with specifications and regional pricing information. If you haven’t nailed down a brand you want yet, try visiting dealer group websites that represent several different nameplates to see what’s out there.
Make a list
Do you want front-wheel drive practicality, rear-wheel drive performance or do-it-all all-wheel drive? Automatic, manual or continuously variable transmission? Think of the must-haves first, then jot down items that would be nice to have, but aren’t deal-breakers without.
See what others are saying
Once you have a shortlist of potentials, check out resources like newspapers, magazines and websites for the latest unbiased news and reviews on models that interest you. Depending on the type of vehicle you’re interested in, pay particular attention to discussion around fuel economy, safety features, ride comfort, and information/entertainment technology.
Car jargon got you down? Edmunds.com has a great glossary of automotive terms.
Meet and greet
Go pay that car you’re thinking of a visit. There a few ways you can go about this: either make a trip to the lot and have a look yourself first before finding a salesman to assist you further. Or, many retail stores now allow you to book a test drive online in advance so you can just pop in during your scheduled slot and evaluate the car. Allow for some wiggle room so you can take your time when you get there. This is one of life’s biggest purchases, so don’t be shy. Ensure that you get an opportunity to drive on both straight and twisty roads, as well as on the highway if possible, and remember to ask plenty of questions.
Time to buy (or lease?)
If you like what you see, now’s comes the decision of whether to lease the vehicle (return it after a predetermined period) or finance/purchase outright. Many people wanting to drive something new every few years often opt for leasing, although be wary that there are distance limits. The latter is a good option for those wanting to keep and/or modify the vehicle.
These are just a few tips to help ease the first-time car buying experience. You can always seek the advice from friends and family who have gone through this process before, and even drag one or two along for a second opinion.