As summer winds down and the return to school enters our minds, many young people are starting to search for a new vehicle. Some are new drivers looking for their first set of wheels, while others are looking for something that will accommodate their move out of the house and into adulthood.
Fortunately, Kelly Blue Book and KBB.com offers these simple tips for how to search for a new vehicle and not make the mistake of driving home a car you will regret buying.
Establish a realistic budget. While it's best to pay cash, some of us need financing for an appropriate vehicle. Before you take out a loan, sit down and write up a budget of all your expenses within a month and make sure loan payments can fit in that budget without taking away from other necessities, like rent and food. If you commit to payments you can't fulfill, not only will you lose your car, but your credit score will suffer, as well.
Consider your transportation needs. Some cars just look cooler, meaner or more sophisticated than others. But these alone are bad reasons for making a purchase. Will you be carrying passengers regularly? Will you be hauling loads or equipment? Will you be traveling long distances, or over rough terrain? Consider all of these, as well as the potential cost of fuel and insurance (you can get a quote beforehand) and make sure you don't buy what you don't need.
Do your research. These days, title reports are easier than ever to locate online, and are sometimes free from the right website. While the seller may hand you a mechanic's report noting the car "runs great" and has "no major problems," seeing the history of a vehicle for yourself can keep you from buying a lemon, and can provide a strong bargaining stance.
Take a test drive. Nothing can tell you the condition of a vehicle like taking it for a spin. Be sure to listen for irregular noises from the engine, while also testing features such as the radio, air conditioning and cruise control. And don't forget to take it on a run down the highway, as cars can behave very differently when they reach higher speeds.
Look up the purchase price. When you think you've found the right vehicle, go online and look up what is generally accepted as the fair price for the car. KBB.com is the classic standby, but a number of other websites can help, while your insurance company may also be a resource. They can even tell you what condition issues are important to look for when pricing a car. Remember the seller wants all they can get for the vehicle, so look up a fair price around the middle of the scale, keeping condition in mind, and try to bargain your way in that direction.
Take your time. Some of us need a car ASAP, and paying too much for a car you don't really want seems like a better alternative to being without a vehicle. Remember a decent vehicle should last you a matter of years, so don't make up your mind in a matter of seconds. Ask friends where good deals can be found, look for sellers outside your area if you're not finding what you need locally, and be sure to sleep on any purchase you're not absolutely comfortable with. Some sellers can be very pushy, and you owe it to yourself to not make a snap decision.