Buying a car is one of life’s big stepping stones. Having your own ride gives you the freedom to travel where and when you need to.

Here are 5 steps to purchase a new car.

  • Find your budget. Knowing what you are able to afford will narrow down your car selections significantly. There is not reason to look at a car that is out of your budget. That will not only be frustrating, but you might be tempted to get something out of your price range. Take a look at your monthly income and how much you are able to afford for a monthly car payment. Don’t forget to include the cost of gas, car insurance and other wear and tear on the car.
  • Do research. Knowledge is power and that is especially important when buying a car. Look at Consumer Reports for an unbiased opinion on car safety, drive-ability, resale value and best used cars. This will help you determine which car is best for you and your price range. If you are new to car buying, ask around. Friends and family will have inside information about cars they love and hate. Viewing a car on paper is one thing, but current or former owners will have insight you will never be able to know.
  • Find a seller and test drive. You have a couple of options of where to purchase a car. A dealership is a common place to find new and used cars. Dealers have a lot of different options and can often find a specific car you are looking for. However, dealers often have higher sticker prices. Independent sellers offer a whole different type of car buying experience. Independent personal sellers can be found through the local classifieds, online or sometimes on the street (cars with for sale stickers in the windows). Beware of purchasing a car online through Craigslist or Ebay that you haven’t seen. If the car looks and sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The next step is to test drive. This gives you the opportunity to get behind the wheel and get a feel for the car. During the test drive be sure to test the acceleration, breaks, sound system, windows and other features. It is smart to take the car to a mechanic to get a good look under the hood.
  • Negotiate. The price of a car is always negotiable. Never agree to pay the sticker price without putting up a bit of a fight. The negotiating tactics at a dealership or with an independent seller are similar. First, check online to Kelly Blue Book to determine what the market value of the car is. Use this price to negotiate the price. A good down payment can turn the negotiating in your favor.
  • Get financing. You have a few options when paying for your car: pay cash or get a loan. Loan rates depend greatly on your credit, down payment and length of the loan. Once you receive the OK from your bank, present the check to the seller and you can walk away with your own car.
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