3 min read

    10 Tips for First-time Car Buyers

    By Wasatch Peaks on April 8, 2019

    Congratulations — it's to purchase your first real car! 

    Whether you're moving on from a hand-me-down car or getting a car for the very first time, purchasing a car for the first time is exciting. The process can be daunting, but Wasatch Peaks will walk you through it to help you find the perfect car. Follow our tips for a stress-free ride! 

    1. Determine if you really need a car 

    OK, you weren’t expecting this, but it’s important to take a step back to review your actual transportation needs. Lots of college towns have a great bus system in place, which can save you loads on car costs. If you have a car-owning good friend you’ll be riding into town with each weekend, it may not pay for you to have your own set of wheels. Also, if your campus has everything you need within walking distance, it can be cheaper to rent a car when you need it instead of buying one now. 

    2. Know your budget

    If you’ve determined that a car purchase is necessary at this point in your life, don’t start hunting for your dream car until you’ve worked out a realistic budget. Take a hard look at your monthly expenses to see how much you can spare for a new set of wheels. This includes things like your rent or mortgage payment, utilities, and groceries. Don’t forget to include some cash for auto insurance, gas and maintenance. 

    3. Create a tentative wish list 

    This is your first car, so it doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles it does in your dreams. Sit down and make a list of all the “must haves” and “wants” you’re looking for in a vehicle. Determine how much each feature would cost you in a car and decide which are really important. Having this with you can help you stay focused on cars in your budget without being swayed while shopping.

    4. Obtain financing 

    If you’ve been saving up cash for your first car, you’re set! Otherwise, you'll need to finance the purchase with an auto loan. Visit Wasatch Peaks to learn about your auto loan options and to get your pre-approval.

    5. Research your options 

    You’re ready to start looking for a vehicle that will satisfy your needs and wants. You can research ratings and user reviews on sites like Cars.com and create another list that contains your top three choices of car makes and models. This is when you can especially utilize your list of "must haves" and "wants" to make sure you're find the best car options for you.

    6. Look up listings 

    Start scavenging for listings of your car choices online and in your neighborhood - you can choose from dealerships or private sellers  Once you’ve found several that might work, research their histories on Carfax.com and then contact the seller to set up a test drive. Many dealerships list their car options online so you can get an idea of what is available before you visit.

    7. Take it for a spin 

    If a car checks out and everything looks good, you’re going to want to take it for a test drive. Pay attention to details like legroom, acceleration, brake functionality and more while you drive. This is a great opportunity to confirm that this is the car for you.

    8. Have it inspected 

    If you’re purchasing a used vehicle, it’s best to have it inspected by a mechanic before signing on the deal. This pre-purchase inspection is offered at most auto-repair shops. While it may seem inconvenient to have to pay for an inspection, this could save you a lot more in the long run, especially if it stops you from buying a car with many major issues.

    9. Make it official 

    If your car has passed the test drive and inspection, you’re ready to make it official! Use your research to ensure the car is priced well for the value and to negotiate the price. If you're paying cash or have a pre-approval, you can leverage this in your negotiations. Be sure to read all documents before signing and obtain insurance before your first joyride. 

    Enjoy your new set of wheels and drive safely!  

    Learn more: 6 Reasons to Get a Car Loan Through a Credit Union

    Wasatch Peaks

    Written by Wasatch Peaks