Purchasing a vehicle can be a daunting task because there are so many decisions to make: Should you buy new or used? What make or model? Will you pay cash or finance your purchase? What will your loan rate and term be? Will you be trading in your old vehicle?

The most important tip for anyone looking to purchase a car is to determine the answers to these questions before you set foot on the dealer’s lot. Time spent in research can make the car-buying purchase much easier and can save thousands of dollars.

  1. Do your research. Successful car buying starts online, not on the car lot. Determine the car you want, the options, and the retail and wholesale price.
  2. Get pre-approved. Getting pre-approved for a car loan from your credit union or bank puts you in a strong negotiating position. You can negotiate with confidence the total price you’re willing to pay.
  3. Don’t want to haggle? Remember that Virginia Credit Union offers a car buying service with pre-negotiated prices on some new and used vehicles. It may be an option to consider.
  4. Take a test drive. Visit dealerships and take your preferred vehicles for a spin.
  5. Buying new? You may be tempted by special financing offered on certain makes and models. Dealers often offer a choice between special financing and a cash rebate. You may be better off taking the dealer’s cash rebate to lower the vehicle’s purchase price and using your pre-approval for financing. Run the numbers and compare, or see an example.
  6. Buying used? Be sure to check the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) against a vehicle history report. In addition, have a mechanic you trust do an independent inspection.
  7. Negotiate the deal. Start low with your first offer, using research and the invoice price as your guide. Respond to counter offers by raising your offer slowly in increments. Before you start negotiating, decide on your upper limit and go no higher.
  8. Be savvy about warranties. If you think you would benefit from purchasing an extended warranty, remember that you have options. You may be able to obtain Major Mechanical Protection at a substantial savings by shopping around. Get a quote from your financial institution when discussing your pre-approval.
  9. Wait to talk trade-in. Talk about your trade-in only after you’ve agreed on a price. Know your car’s retail and wholesale value before negotiating the value of your trade-in.
  10. Complete the sale. Read all contracts carefully and don’t allow yourself to be rushed. Make sure all blanks are filled in before you sign, and don’t accept a deal if there are added fees you don’t agree with.

Please call us if you have questions or if we can help you consider your options when making major purchases like a car. Arm yourself ahead of time with information and you’ll have a more successful car buying experience.