Shopping for a new car

By Matt Williamson
Info Guru,

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Front of several cars
Know what you want and what you can afford before you shop for a new car
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Shopping for a new car can be quite a stressful experience. It takes a long time, it's a large financial commitment, and it can be rather overwhelming because of the huge number of vehicle choices and pushy car dealers. So it helps to have a few quick tips to be ready.

Know what you can afford

One of the biggest downfalls of new-car buyers is that many shop for a car without any realistic numbers on which to base their decisions. Knowing what you can afford for a monthly payment is essential because it is the most influential financial aspect of buying a new car. Long-term financial cost is also important. Sit down and figure out how much that interest rate is going to cost you in five years.

Make that down-payment

Be sure that you can make a decent down payment at the time of purchase, because the bigger the down payment, the lower the interest rate, and the lower the interest rate, the lower the monthly payment. Say, for example, you purchase a car for $20,000 at an interest rate of 6.5% with no down payment. Your monthly payment would be $365.78. Now if you put $3,000 down, your payment drops to $310.91, which for most people would be pretty significant.

Shop with an open mind

Oftentimes, when shopping for a new car, buyers become fixated on one brand or one model. Decide what you need and want in a car, and then once you have your list of requirements, find the cars that meet your expectations. If you shop using this method, you will be able to explore many more cars than just the one with which you are obsessed, and perhaps that will lead to a better deal.


Research many different brands, and be sure to include safety ratings and reliability. Safety ratings need to be a very high in priority on your list of research topics because driving is a dangerous activity. Most of us do it every day without thinking about the dangers associated with it. It's important to have a car that will protect you and loved ones if you are in an accident. Reliability matters too; an unreliable car is a dangerous car. Research reliability one year out from purchase, five years out, and so forth. One great resource is

Don't settle for less, and don't rush

If you cannot find a car right away that fits your budget and other requirements, do not settle for something almost as good. Chances are, if you really take your time and remain patient, the right car will come knocking at your proverbial front door. Don't rush the process either. Many first-time buyers are very eager to get into that brand new car, and this creates a dangerous situation. Don't let your car-hungry eyes get the best of your wallet and sanity. Just because a car has nice seats and a ten-speaker sound system, that doesn't mean that it's the best car for you. Slow down, think about what you're doing, and make a smart decision that you'll be satisfied with five years down the road (no pun intended).

For most people, buying a new car is the second largest financial commitment they will make in their lives, following housing arrangements. It requires a lot of work and patience, but if you follow these guidelines, you'll end up with a vehicle that you'll be happy with for many years.

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