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A year ago I was in the market to buy a car and I can’t tell you how helpful Cars.com was for me in selecting a car. I found the car buying process to be quite stressful as I wasn’t quite sure what resource I could trust for information. I also had difficulty articulating the type of car I was seeking. I am a person that keeps my cars for a minimum of ten years and I wanted to be sure that my next investment was made in a vehicle that would last and be safe for me for years to come. I am going to share some advice as to what I learned from my car experience in hopes that it will aide you in finding your dream vehicle.
Research, research, and more research
Now this is one area that I can say that I spent a lot of time in and I was in a particular rush to move past this stage of the car search. I had driven a compact car for 11 years and knew that I wanted something that would have the ability to grow with me through the next phases of my life. I spent many weekends first test driving a multitude of vehicles and then I would return home and research more about the car online. A lot of cars nowadays get great gas mileage and I was afraid if I made the jump over into the SUV market that I would regret it when gas prices eventually increased. However, when looking at Cars.com I was able to find out that today’s SUVs of today get really good gas mileage compared to 10 years ago. Also, on the website I was able to do a comparison of safety features against other car manufacturers.
I can’t tell you how helpful the auto loan calculator was for me and my search on Cars.com. I am a real stickler about paying too much for a car that you can’t afford either now or down the road. Yes, life happens and change is constant however, I wanted to be sensible regarding the debt that I would be incurring for the next 5-6 years. I used the car loan calculator to determine the monthly estimated payment I was comfortable paying based on the interest rate, vehicle price and term of the loan. Once I figured out the range I would be paying monthly for an SUV I then was able to narrow down my search to cars that were priced between a certain range.
Another factor I considered was car reliability to determine if the car would eat up my budget right away or later on. As stated earlier, I have a tendency to keep my cars on average of 10 years and I have found that if you plan to keep your car for a while it is good to hear from other consumers as regarding their experience with mechanical problems they have had with the car. If you begin to research and discover many folks have had the same issues with a car especially in a short time frame then it is probably a car that you will want to reconsider as those frequent trips to a mechanic will eat away at that budget as well.
Down payment or not
I had always heard that it was best to put money down on a car at the dealership at the time of purchase as it would lower the cost of the vehicle. However, when the time came to purchase my car I actually became a little frustrated seeing that on average every $1,000 put down on the car only took off about $10 of the monthly payment. Once I realized this I became discouraged quickly as it seemed I would have to put a substantial amount of money towards the car in order to lower my payments in the range that I wanted. Instead what I learned from a finance manager of one of the dealerships I visited that it is actually better to just keep the down payment and apply the money instead towards your first payment. What this does is actually gets you ahead of the interest and the payment schedule which in essence allows you to eventually start “lowering” your monthly payment.
My last and perhaps most important tip is to take your time with your car search to ensure you find the right car for you. Some may disagree but I think shopping for a car is something you should take your time with as it is already expensive. If you do not take your time to research, test drive, and ask questions about the vehicle or car buying process in general you will end up getting frustrated and possibly paying more than you should for your next vehicle. When you are searching for a car you are allowed to be as picky as you want to because depending on what state you reside in there may not be a cooling off period or return policy for the car which means you will be stuck with the decision you made for some time. I hope these tips help you to find your next vehicle.
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