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How to Buy A Car: 10 Tips To Get You Behind the Wheel

Jun 06, 2017 - Posted by: Kelly Fleiner

I am a self-proclaimed expert at the process of buying new vehicles, and I’d love to teach you how to buy a car. I seem to get a new car every year or so, and my husband was an auto salesman for eight years. I have 10 tips and tricks to help you score the best price and avoid spending hours upon hours in the dealership.

1. Buy Local

Your local salesman is going to try to get you the best deal because they want you to tell your friends about your good experience. I know that the online price of that car in a neighboring state seems like a great deal, but your local dealership is likely able to meet or beat that price, which saves you the travel expenses. 

2. Get Pre-Approved

Stop into the credit union and see what rate you qualify for before going to the dealership. Dealerships offer financing, but they get a kickback from loans and might try to get you locked into a higher interest rate. By getting pre-qualified, you know what rate you can expect to get and the dealership may be able to beat that rate for you. 

3. Do Your Research

You found a beautiful new car, you can afford the payments, and now you want to sign on the dotted line, right? Please wait until you've done your research. I recommend using Carfax, especially if it is a used vehicle, to make sure the car has not been in any major accidents. Also, Edmunds can give you some great information about the vehicle you have in mind, like what the average sale price is in your area.

4. Be Comfortable with Your Salesperson

If your salesperson is being pushy or making you uneasy about the situation, walk away. This isn’t how you want to buy a car, and it’s okay to let them know. Buying a car should be fun. If it is stressful, then it’s not worth it. Your salesperson should push you a bit, but not outside your comfort zone.

5. Know the Overall Price of the Vehicle.

If you understand how to buy a car, then you are aware that prices and payments can widely vary. The first thing the car dealership will ask is “how much can you afford a month?” Yes, this is great, they want to stick within your budget. But if your overall purchase price is too large, it won’t matter- you won’t be able to afford the monthly payment, anyway. Rather than handing over a large down payment in an effort to keep your monthly payments manageable, try to negotiate the total price of the vehicle to a more comfortable amount.

6. Buy at the End of the Month.

This is my favorite tip on how to buy a car, and it comes from watching my husband race at the end of the month, every month for eight years, to sell as many cars as possible. The end of the month is when the dealership is getting close to their goals. Depending on the number of vehicles sold, sales associates can get cash incentives and other bonuses for selling at or above the goal amount. In other words, they are almost desperate for you to buy a car toward the end of the month. In addition, if you are being reasonable, wait an extra day before purchasing the vehicle. The salesman may even come back with a larger discount or more add-ons to entice you. Just remember, you need to purchase before the end of the month, so it is a delicate dance. I know you can do it.

7. Bring a Person You Trust

Another opinion is always helpful, especially when you are making a major purchase. A friend or family member can also help with the sales pressure that can be common in this industry - especially if they understand how to buy a car. These folks are great people and want you to be happy, but sometimes the sale gets in the way of service. So, having an extra person to help you can slow down the process to make sure you are comfortable before you buy.

8. You Can’t Really Negotiate on New Vehicles

Brand new vehicles are on every car lot in America. They are sparkly, eye-catching and meant to get you in the door. Here is an insider secret: the dealership is selling those brand-new vehicles for almost exactly what they paid for them, so there is no wiggle room on the price. The best place to negotiate is on a used vehicle. My husband used to love selling used vehicles because depending on the trade-in amount he gave for it, he could make a ton of money. Hopefully this makes you comfortable enough to haggle the price of the used car you want.

9. Most Car Salesmen are Good People

I should know; I married one. I know the industry gets a bad rap, but these are truly some great people. Remember when you are buying a car, you are supporting your local economy and your salesperson’s family by purchasing a vehicle from them. They want you to be happy, so in the future you'll come back to them again. Repeat business is where car salesmen really make their money.

10. You Are Making a Large Purchase

You are the most important part of the car buying process. If your salesman forgets that - move on. You are the one that has to live with this purchase and make the payments, so if you are not happy, don’t buy it. If you are happy, comfortable, and your salesman is mindful of your needs - purchase away.


Hopefully, I've cleared up any misconceptions about the vehicle-buying process and answered your questions about how to buy a car. If you're ready to pre-qualify for a car loan, head over to Rocky Mountain Credit Union to fill out an application today.

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