For most people, cars are your second biggest expense (after housing). We either love cars or love to hate them, but either way, we spend a lot of money on them.
We’ve put together this car buying guide to help you navigate the process of buying (or selling) you’re next new-to-you car.
Car Buying Guide
Whether it’s your first time buying a car or your fiftieth, the dealers always have new tricks up their sleeves.
Consider how much you can afford.
Vehicles are not an investment. It’s an emotional thrill to buy a new car, but a used car is a far better value.
Do your homework.
Know the dealer’s playbook.
Many car dealerships are getting better about price transparency, but most still try to push pricey — often unnecessary — add-ons, and you may still run into a shady salesperson. Learn how to spot the most common car sales tricks and how to negotiate around them.
Negotiate your price via phone or e-mail.
Do your test driving first. Leave the dealership. Call back the next day and negotiate a price over the phone, or better yet, follow this trick the car dealers hate to secure a rock bottom price. The dealer will hate you, but you’ll get the best price possible.
Check auto loan rates online or with your local bank or credit union before applying for credit at the dealership.
Decide on a warranty before the dealer talks you into one.
In general, dealer extras like paint coating and VIN etching are totally not worth it. Save the cash for car washes and comprehensive insurance. Extended warranties, however, are a more complicated decision. The best extended warranties are sold by the manufacturer on new or certified pre-owned cars, and you have to watch out for totally worthless warranties sometimes sold on used cards. Proceed carefully.
Don’t forget insurance!
Auto insurance is important, but you don’t want to spend more than you have to.
- The best car insurance companies for young adult drivers
- 10 questions to ask when buying car insurance
Selling a car?
Cream-puff or clunker; you can get more for your old car on the private market when you follow this advice for selling your car. Don’t be lazy, sell it yourself. If you simply can’t stomach the task, be sure to take steps to maximize how much you get for your trade in.
Latest Posts on Cars
How much car can you afford? Find out how much you should spend on a car in your twenties and why — unless cars are your absolute passion — it’s probably way less than you think.
Should you make an insurance claim even for minor damage? What if the other driver was uninsured? Answers to frequently asked questions about dealing with insurance after an accident.
Yes, it’s possible to sell your car with payments left on the loan — even in a private party sale. The key is finding a patient buyer.
Some people can’t resist that new car smell. But if you have the willpower to buy used cars (and drive them for years), your savings will really add up. See how much you could save.
When calculating net worth, should you count your car as an asset? Yes, but only if you use a current — and realistic — depreciated value.
The longer you keep your car, the cheaper it becomes. Don’t believe us? Here are the numbers.
You’ll get the most for your car if you sell it yourself. You’ll get even more if you sell it the right way. Make the most from your vehicle with these simple steps.
You swerved for a skunk and wrecked your ride; now your car insurance is going to double, right? Not necessarily. With the right insurer — or some clever maneuvering — you can still save money on car insurance after an accident.
Save money on auto financing by knowing your credit score and leveraging competing loan offers at the dealership. Put money down, keep the term as short as you can afford, and — of course — don’t buy more car than you can afford.
Are you an adult? Do you own a car? If you don’t know how to perform these very basic maintenance checks, it’s time to up your game.