Our customers often ask for advice about buying their next car. Should I buy new or used? What questions should you ask the dealer? What steps should you take once you find a car? And, in what order?
Whatever you’re looking for and no matter your budget, here are our top four tips for buying a car:
1) Name your price.
First thing’s first—you have to set a budget. As with any big purchase, it’s important to know how much you can spend on a car before you set foot on the lot so you don’t waste time on models that are out of your price range or, worse, wind up with a vehicle you can’t really afford.
When calculating your budget, it’s important to factor in the additional costs that come with buying and owning a car, from one-time fees like your registration and title fees to recurring costs like regular maintenance and monthly insurance.
It’s also important to consider depreciation over time. Your car starts to lose value the moment it leaves the sales lot so it’s critical to factor that into your long-term financial planning, especially if you’re leasing. Figure out what you can realistically afford and make sure to stick to your spending limit.
2) Determine which models best fit your needs.
Setting a budget is usually pretty easy– just a little number crunching. Figuring out what you need is not so simple.
Once you have a budget, you can dive into the decision-making process. In general, people tend to buy more car than they actually need but a car is a personal and expensive item to invest in. Most people find themselves making an emotional purchase, driven by the “heart” (or “gut”) and rather than logic.
That’s why it’s important to think realistically about the car and the features you need for your lifestyle instead of following the latest trends. Test something a little smaller or a little older than the car you were thinking of and give it active consideration.
3) Do your research.
In this day and age, most car purchases start online which means that buyers entering the showrooms are more informed than they used to be. If you want negotiating power at a dealership, it’s important to know your stuff.
Consumer Reports reliability ratings are one of the best guides for how cars hold their own over time, which is an important thing to consider when buying a used car; JD Power’s Initial Quality Studies measure how a car performs when it’s brand new out of the factory. It’s also helpful to look at sites that help you fit a car into your long-term budget like Kelley Blue Books Five-Year Cost to Own information. This does not mean you should run out and buy a car that has good ratings but it’s helpful to know what you’re getting and what it’s really going to cost you in the long run.
If you really want to be in a good position to negotiate with a dealership, you should also look up the target car’s invoice price, a.k.a. what the dealer paid for it. This is different from the MSRP which is the “manufacturer’s suggested retail price.” Ideally, you want to arrive at a price that’s closer to invoice than to MSRP. You can also lookup the average transaction price (ATP), which will give you a sense of where most purchases of that model are currently ending up. Be sure to check for incentives and ask about rebates, and keep an eye out for hidden fees.
4) Ask for help.
If you ever have questions about a vehicle, just ask us! V&F Auto Sales has been serving the Western Mass community since 1988, providing our customers with a quality, affordable vehicle inventory and convenient financing options. You can view a complete list of our inventory on our website, or visit us at 7 Harding St, Agawam, MA 01001.