Most adults in the United States own a car. Many are lucky enough to live in a city with sufficient public transportation, but the rest of us must shuttle ourselves around.

The process for buying a car can be a headache. It is a big purchase that is long lasting for many. Here are the basic steps to helping you navigate the road to buying a car.

1. Find out how much you can afford.

By finding out what you can afford, you will eliminate yourself a lot of wasted time and unnecessary headache. Find out in your monthly budget what you can afford each month for a car payment. (Do not forget to calculate gas, car maintenance, and car insurance into the equation). Visit your bank to find out what kind of car loan you will be approved for. A hint: the better your credit score the lower your monthly interest. This will affect the overall amount you pay on your car.

2. Assess your needs.

Do you have a large family or just two? Do you often use your car of off-roading adventures or for free-way driving? Do you put a lot of miles on your car? These are all considerations to look at when assessing your needs. If you have a large family, a Mini Cooper will probably suit your needs. On the flip side, if you are single, you probably won’t have much use for a mini-van.

3. Look for a car.

Cars for sale are everywhere. New cars can be found at a car dealership, as well as used cars. Used cars can be found on Craigslist, newspaper classifieds, or just sitting on the side of the street. To make sure you are not getting a lemon, consult with Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is a nonprofit agency that tests consumer products. This unbiased approach (the mag and site do not accept any advertising revenues) will show you car ratings in categories such as gas mileage, wear and tear, handling and overall condition. Only look for cars in your price range to avoid impulse buys on something you cannot afford.

4. Negotiate.

The sticker price on the car is a suggestion. And smart car buyers know this. Be prepared to haggle and negotiate with the car seller. The key is to start low and to slowly build up to a middle price. Use Kelly Blue Book or NADA to see what the car is really worth. Put a limit on your spending and do not exceed it. Not a good negotiator? Take a pal who is to help you score a good deal. A lower cost upfront will save you tons on interest.

5. Pay the money.

If you are using a loan to pay for the car, visit your bank to get a loan. The bank will give you a certified check for you to use as payment. You can also switch over the title of the car (the document that proves ownership) at the bank or at your county DMV.

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