Have you been driving the same old, rusty, rattletrap of a car since you were 18? If your vehicle has more dents than the average golf ball, vibrates like it’s held together by duct tape, or actually is held together by duct tape, it may be time to start looking for a new car.
Buying a car can seem like a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time; however, it can also be exciting to look at all the options and decide on a vehicle that you will enjoy driving for years to come. To make it as easy as possible, we’ve broken down the basics of car buying into the following five steps:
- Calculate Your Budget
A popular rule of thumb when buying a vehicle is to plan on spending no more than 20% of your monthly after-tax income for all car-related expenses, including maintenance and gas. Additional expenses like mortgage or rent payments can affect this number, so you need think beyond percentages to an amount that you would feel comfortable paying every month for a car.
With an estimated monthly payment in mind, you can use an online car payment calculator to help determine your price range for a new car. The trade-in value of your current vehicle is a key factor included in most online budgeting tools. Answering all questions honestly will give you the most accurate value that you can expect to use as part of your down payment when you are ready to buy.
It’s important to remember to be realistic with yourself about what you can afford. Living beyond your means and stretching your budget too thin can make even the most exhilarating new car purchase lose its luster.
- Assess Your Needs
Now it’s time to list of all the “must have” amenities that you can’t live without in your new car, as well as additional features you wouldn’t mind having if you can afford them. How long do you expect to be driving the vehicle? Are you expecting any significant life changes during that time (i.e. marriage, kids, location, distance of daily commute)?
What qualities are most important to you in a vehicle? Gas mileage? Looks? Versatility? Safety? All of these things should be considered during your needs analysis to determine which factors are most important in your decision. Asking yourself the right questions during this stage will also help narrow down your list of potential cars.
- Research Cars and Prices
Now the fun part begins. Once you’ve determined your budget and have an idea of what kind of car you’re looking for, you can begin your search for the vehicle that fits the bill. Be sure to keep your options open during this step. If your budget doesn’t align with cars that fit your basic needs, it might be time to look into a used car. That way you can afford more options for less money.
The power of the Internet brings you a wealth of resources for researching new vehicles online. For example, this comparison shopping tool on Mazda’s website allows you to compare any Mazda vehicle with competing vehicles in its class, or to just about any other new vehicle sold in the U.S. Many car websites also allow you to “build” your ideal vehicle, while adding on your choice of options, to give you a better idea of what to expect for a final sale price.
Again, we recommend flexibility as you move through this process. It’s OK to fall in love with a particular car at first sight, but keep a few other options in mind – just in case your No. 1 choice doesn’t live up to the hype when you see it up close.
- Test Drive Your Favorite Vehicles
Even if the first test drive feels “just right,” it’s a good practice to test more than one vehicle to be sure you’ve found the perfect fit. There’s no need to feel pressured, because dealers know that test driving multiple vehicles is part of the buying process for many car shoppers. Try to get a feel for how the car handles, both in city and highway driving. If the salesperson is riding along with you, he or she will likely have a route planned that will give you a good idea of the vehicle’s capabilities.
Remember to take your time with this stage. A car purchase is a major decision that you will likely have to live with for a number of years, so you don’t want to be too hasty if you can avoid it.
- Make Your Purchase Decision
After you’ve test-driven some of your favorites, you’re finally ready to make your decision and purchase a new car. Most dealerships work with multiple lenders and can shop around to help you find the best financing rate for a new car loan. But it’s also acceptable for you to work with your own preferred lender, if your credit union or bank offers affordable auto loan rates.
Be aware of legitimate, unavoidable fees that dealerships have to charge – such as documentation, licensing, and transport fees. These come into play at this stage and can take you by surprise if you did not initially consider them as part of the purchase. Use the budget you determined in Step 1 as a guide, and don’t be afraid to walk away if the price goes beyond your reach, or something doesn’t feel right to you about the buying process. You’ll have to live with your payment, and your decision, for quite some time, so you should feel comfortable and confident when it’s time to sign on the dotted line.
If you’ve followed the steps above, the final step is the best one of all: Enjoy your new car! No matter which car you decide to buy, we wish you the best. May you soon find the perfect vehicle that makes your old, rusty, duct tape-mobile nothing but a distant memory.
If the new car you are looking for happens to be a Mazda, then contact us today at North End Mazda. We are located at 747 Chase Road, Lunenburg, MA 01462. Stop by any day of the week to take a test drive or just to have a look around. You can also give us a call at (888) 805-1469.