Picture this: a sleek new car coasting down the highway. As the sun glints off its brilliant ruby red exterior, you catch a glimpse of the make and model—it’s your dream car. The driver beams with satisfaction as they slide open the sunroof.
Picture this: that driver is you.
If this is a dream of yours, it may be time to buy your first car. This might sound intimidating, but here are four ways to make the process easier. Just like with your driving test, preparation pays off—time to study up!
#1 Set Your Budget
This happens all too often: a fresh-faced driver walks into the dealership with no idea what they’re looking for. Like a kid in a candy store or on Christmas morning, everything looks good. After several hours and very little haggling, they drive home in a brand-new car they can’t afford.
Don’t be too hard on yourself! Car salesmen are one smooth-talking bunch. Set a reasonable budget before you start shopping so you can beat them at their own game.
To stay under budget, you’ll have much better luck perusing used cars. New platforms and marketplace apps have made it easier than ever to find a reasonable pre-owned vehicle:
- CarMax or Carvana – CarMax and Carvana let you do the majority of the legwork from the comfort of your home. Browse online before you head out so you can breeze through, seal the deal, and be on your merry way before the hour is up.
- Facebook Marketplace – Nowadays, Facebook is for more than stalking high school crushes and updating your status. Many people have started using the new Marketplace feature to sell their used cars at surprisingly low prices. Utilize Facebook’s search tools to narrow down your scope and find something within budget.
#2 Create a Payment Plan
Don’t be alarmed, but many new vehicles cost upwards of $30,000. For the average person, that’s a lot of cold hard cash to have laying around in the bottom of a sock or tucked between the mattress and box spring.
Luckily, you don’t need that much upfront!
The easiest way to finance a new car is by taking out a bank loan. This can be done directly from the dealership in three simple steps:
- Offer a down payment – To secure the loan, you’ll have to pay an upfront cost of anywhere from 10-50% of the car’s total price—usually a few thousand dollars.
- Pass a credit check – Banks don’t lend money to just any old geezer who asks for it. You need a good credit score—if you don’t know yours, you can run a free credit check by Credit Karma. Anything above 670 is considered good, but 700+ makes you a prime borrower.
- Determine loan terms – Negotiations with the lender will determine the specific terms of your loan, including your annual interest rate and monthly payment amount. If you don’t understand all of the financial details, bring someone with you who does—your insurance broker uncle, or friendly next-door neighbor, for example.
#3 Stay Calm
Despite the stress of a big purchase, it’s important to keep a level head during the process. These car salesmen can be quite shark-like—anxiety, to them, is like blood in the water. A few positive affirmations can go a long way, but you might benefit from something a little stronger.
Natural supplements, like high-quality CBD gummies by CBDfx, are a great way to prepare for these high-stakes situations. One or two gummies before you arrive will put you in a much calmer headspace—ready to tackle those sharks head-on.
#4 Take It For a Test Drive
Don’t let flashy exteriors and high-tech gadgets distract you from what really matters—how the car drives (that is, after all, what it’s for). Before you lay down years’ worth of savings, make sure it drives as well as it looks.
Even a quick spin around the block can provide a feel for how the car handles. Test out the acceleration speed, how it brakes, and any fancy dashboard gizmos like a back-up camera and assistive technology. These features are all important when choosing your new ride-or-die (literally).
If you’re purchasing from a private seller, don’t be afraid to request a test drive. If they won’t let you hop behind the wheel before handing over a thick wad of cash, there’s probably something they aren’t telling you. They might be scamming you into buying a lemon—and not the kind you can make lemonade out of, unfortunately.
Drive Away Feeling Satisfied
Buying your first (or any) car is a major decision that you shouldn’t take lightly.
Being prepared, knowing what you want, and asking the right questions are crucial steps toward a successful purchase. After all, the customer is always right. If the dealership doesn’t agree, find a seller that does and take your business there.
With these tips and tricks, you’ll be ready to hit the open road—don’t forget to fill up on gas first!