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Before You Leave Your House to Buy a Car

Car Sales

This may sound elementary to you, and if it does, please bear with me. I’ve decided to that the used car purchase process step by step. Starting with the five W’s and H of buying a used car (you journalism folks know what I’m talking about).

  • Who are you buying the car for?
  • What is your auto purchasing budget?
  • Where do you live and where will the car be driven
  • Why do you need to buy a car?
  • When you need the car?
  • How are you going to pay for the car?

I don’t want to sound like a killjoy, but sometimes answering the above questions you might find that you don’t really need a car…at least not now.

You’ll find that the 5W’s and one H may overlap when thinking it through, but I’ll try my best to keep them separated.

Who are you buying the car for? Who is the primary driver?

Buying a car for a newly licensed teenager might require different features than buying one for a mom with four children than buying one for a single business man who is on the road visiting client after client. A teenager in a minivan is just as undesirable as a mom with four kids in a two seater and a traveling business man with a gas guzzler.

Take the time to take a realistic look at your situation. You may fancy yourself as a ‘player’ and buy a sexy sleek car, but once you drive it home, your wife meets you in the doorway looks at you with hands on hips and tells you to take it back. “And where are the kids supposed to fit?”

What is Your Auto Purchasing Budget?

Take a realistic look at your budget before you go to a dealership. Auto sales people are great at selling. If you’re not firm with your budget, they’ll have you overextended in no time. Go to Bankrate.com and use their auto loan calculator. It will give you a good idea of just how much car you can afford (knowing your credit standing will also be a help).

Where So You Live and Where Will the Vehicle Be Driven?

Let’s get basic, if you live in New York City or any other large city, think twice about buying a car. If you can get away taking the subway, bus, taxi or walking, you should do so. It’s a lot cheaper and healthier. However, if you don’t have the luxury of a reliable transportation system and you must use a car to get around, consider the type of driving (local or highway), the weather conditions (Miami vs. Buffalo) and parking availability.

The cold and snowy conditions in Buffalo make 4 wheel drive vehicles a necessity, while the Miami warmth makes convertibles more attractive (be careful of sun burn). If you live in more moderate areas, you get to pick the best of both options.

Why do You Need a Car?

Can you get away with renting a car occasionally or do you really need the full time expense of a car. The convenience of owning a car comes along with a lot of expense. If you can survive without one, renting on occasion, you might be better off.

When do You Need to Buy a Car?

It’s better to buy a car near the end of the year when dealerships are anxious to get rid of their inventory to make room for the following year’s new models. According to CNN the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, is the best day to buy a new car.

Edmonds.com has a handy article on When to Buy Your Next Car. They mention tricks like, come in 15 minutes before closing to get a good deal; rainy days because most car buyers won’t come out in the rain, end of the month because dealers are trying to meet their quota and a few other tips. Check out the article to see if you can employ some of their money saving tips.

How Are You Going to Pay for the Car?

This question ties into the “What is your budget?” question. If you have cash, then you know exactly what your budget is and you won’t incur interest charges financing a pre-owned car. However, if you’re going to seek auto financing, make sure to do your homework first by pulling your credit report to get an indication of exactly how much car dealerships are willing o finance.

Sorry for being so long-winded, but I had to get that out of the way. Next we’ll address things that most folks don’t consider when buying a used car. Things like gas mileage, car safety, car reliability, used car history and a host of other things.

About the author: Felicia A. Williams is a former insurance broker who is now a freelance writer.

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