It can be easy to feel like you are in over your head and you have no idea what you’re doing when buying a car. We’re here to help! We’ve put together a list of tips, tricks, and things to consider when buying a car to make this process stress-free and painless.

When Buying a New or Used Car:

Consider whether you can afford the expense of owning a vehicle.

First and foremost, you must think about your current financial situation when buying a car. Never buy something that you can’t afford, and always plan for the expense of buying a car. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “How will I be paying for this?”
  • “How much do I want to spend?”
  • “How will this affect my insurance?” When you have answered each of these questions, you can come up with a plan that will help you stay within your budget while also getting the car of your dreams.

Think about how you will use the car.

Your answer to this question will determine everything in the car-buying process. Will you be using the car primarily for work? Do you need something with low gas mileage capabilities? Will you need space to transfer heavy equipment? Answering these types of questions will help you decide what type of car you need for your lifestyle. Every car has strengths and weaknesses. So, it’s important to figure out what type of car will best suit you and your needs.

Conduct extensive research to find a few cars that meet your needs.

The next step of the process is to research anything and everything about the type of car you want. The internet is an extremely helpful tool in this type of research, because you can find practically any information you want about a car.

Another aspect of research is to remember to look around, too. Don’t settle on searching for cars at one location. Take the time to shop around and check out various dealerships, private owners, and car lots. This will give you an incredible sense of the market, and it will equip you with enough knowledge and confidence to know that you are buying the best car for the best deal.

Always test drive a car before you buy it.

Test driving cars is extremely important because it allows you not only to get a feel for the car, but also to identify any potential problems. Nationwide insurance gives 5 helpful tips on what to look for in a test drive.

When Buying a Used Car:

Check out the vehicle’s history.

If you are buying a used car, it’s important to know what the car has been through. If you are buying a car from a private seller, ask for a history of repairs and check-ups. You can also look at a car’s history by researching it’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on various websites like CARFAX.

If you are buying your car from a non-private seller such as a dealer or car lot, then you can ask if they have this type of history for the car on-hand. Often, it can cost money to search this information on your own, but if you ask the seller then they may provide you with the history free of charge.

Take the car to a mechanic.

You don’t want any surprises after you buy your car, and a way to ensure this is to take the car you are looking at to a mechanic. Many mechanics will allow you to bring in a car that you are potentially buying for a brief look in order to make sure that everything is functioning properly. All you have to do is call the seller and make sure that they will allow you to take the car to a mechanic, and then find a local mechanic willing to check out the vehicle.

Check out the ownership information and title status.

First, you will want to review the ownership of the car and make sure that it matches the identification of the seller. This will ensure that there is no fraud in the transaction. Next, you will want to look at the car’s title. Understanding a car’s title status will help you understand not only the car’s history, but also any potential problems you may have.

There are countless different types of titles for cars, but the three most common are “clean,” “salvaged,” and “rebuilt.” Having a clean title means that the car has never been totaled, or had enough damage to deem it a total loss. A salvaged title, on the other hand, means that the car was at one point deemed totaled by an insurance company. The definition of a totaled car, however, varies between states and insurance companies. Finally, a rebuilt title is issued to cars that were once a salvage title, but they have since been repaired and are in working condition. For a more detailed look at the types of car titles, check out

Older cars with high mileage will probably break down sooner.

Years and mileage play important roles in cars. The older the car, the more likely it is to have more miles. Usually, when a car has a high number of miles, it means that the car is getting closer and closer to breaking down. This is also applicable to older cars. So, it is important to consider both the year and mileage of the car that you would like to purchase. Take this into consideration with what you will be using your car for, and how long you would like the car to last.

When Buying a New Car:

Determine if you want to lease or buy the car.

New cars tend to be more expensive than used cars, so you may want to consider leasing the car rather than buying it, especially if you do not have enough finances to buy the car in full. Leasing a car basically means that you are paying to drive the car but not to actually own it, similar to paying rent on an apartment. This is useful if you would like to drive a newer, more expensive vehicle.

Get pre-approved for a loan to buy a new car.

Instead of buying the car in full or leasing the car, you may want to consider buying the car and making payments. In this case, you will want to take out a loan.

Many car dealerships and car lots provide financing for cars; however, it may be more useful for you to visit a bank or credit union for financing options. Many dealerships have higher prices, interest, and loan rates as compared to banks or credit unions. Also, if you get a quote from a finance union, then you can present it to the dealership and potentially negotiate a lower price.

Consider what you need when you’re tempted by bells and whistles.

Many car dealerships and car lots will offer countless add-ons and extras when you are buying your car. Don’t fall for this trap! Here are some common add-ons and extras that might be offered:

  • heated seats
  • rear-view camera
  • built-in GPS system
  • anti-theft device
  • VIN etching
  • dealership maintenance plan
  • extended warranty

Unless you have done the research on these extras, and you have decided they are features you want, do not impulse-buy and start adding on the extras. This will cause the cost of your car to skyrocket, and you could potentially go over budget and be left with buyer’s remorse.

Purchasing a car is a major investment, and it is not one that should be taken lightly. Following this list of things to consider when buying a car can help make the process not only easier, but also much more bearable. Buying a car doesn’t have to be a hassle, and at the end of it all you can end up happy and in love with your new ride.