When you’re shopping for a new ride, sometimes all you want are the essential details delivered quickly and easily. We’ve condensed our more comprehensive eight steps to buying a new car into a few essentials. Here we go:
1. Pick your vehicle
Read Edmunds reviews and best vehicle lists, such as those for best midsize sport-utility vehicles, best sport sedans and best pickups. Then narrow your choices, settling on the vehicle that fits you best, whether that’s a minivan or a subcompact. Shopping online is the fastest way to get a great deal, so these steps assume that’s what you are doing.
2. Arrange financing
Run your credit report and get your credit score. The score tells you your credit tier, which will affect your annual percentage rate. Even if you have bad credit, you can still buy a vehicle that’s right for you and your wallet. Next, get preapproved for a loan at your local bank, credit union or online lender. By going in with financing already arranged, you can determine if the dealer can beat your interest rate. This strategy also keeps the negotiations more focused since you will only be looking at the total price of the vehicle (also called the “out the door” price), not a monthly payment.
3. Check vehicle prices
For a quick sense of pricing on Edmunds, look at the deal “meter” next to most vehicles listed in the Edmunds new-car inventory. It will indicate whether the special offer shown is a fair, good or great deal. Click “Reveal Price,” supply some contact information and you’ll immediately see the deal details.
Some listings may ask you to request a quote from the dealership, and that’s easy to do. It’s smart to get multiple quotes once you are serious about a make and model. It can add a little time to the process, but it also can pay off.
If you want more context on the vehicle’s selling price, Edmunds can help with its True Market Value tool. You’ll get an idea of what people are paying for vehicles that are similarly equipped to the one you’re considering, and it’s a good reference point for negotiations. Edmunds also has a tool to help you appraise your potential trade-in to determine if you might trade it in or sell it on your own.
4. Gather dealer quotes and test-drive
If there is no special offer, you can email, text or telephone dealers for a price quote. Getting four to six quotes on vehicle prices in an hour should be easy. Call the internet manager to verify that the vehicle in question has the options you want and to check if it has any other dealer add-ons. Not all will match your ideal configuration, so you may have to be flexible on options and color to get the best deal.
When you’ve found the exact vehicle you want, take the lowest price quote, then call or email the internet manager and make an offer. Even if you received a reasonable price right off the bat, don’t be afraid to make a counteroffer for less. It’s part of the process, and dealers understand that. Do make sure you stay in the pricing ballpark. Let the internet manager know you’ve received offers from other dealers and, if needed, refer to a specific quote if there’s any reluctance to bring down the price.
This is also the time to schedule a test drive. It is an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked. Take your time to check how you fit in the vehicle as well as its visibility, technology interface and comfort level on the road.
5. Review the contract and take delivery
It’s not well known, but you can often arrange to have the vehicle delivered to your home or workplace. This option allows you to sign the paperwork in a relaxed environment, skip the trip to the finance and insurance office, and avoid many car-buying pitfalls. Wherever you finalize the deal, call your insurance company and let your agent or customer service representative know that you’ll need coverage for your new ride.
Once the internet manager or salesperson arrives at your home (if that’s where you’re taking delivery), review the contract. You don’t have to read the whole thing, but do pay attention to such important details as the APR, total sale price, length of the contract, down payment, documentation fee and registration fees. Make sure your personal information is correct.
The process is mostly the same at the dealership, but you will do the paperwork in the finance and insurance office, where you’ll be offered additional products, such as theft-deterrent devices and extended warranties.
When you take delivery, either at home or at the dealership, have the salesperson walk around the vehicle with you. Check that there are no scratches, dents or dings. Make sure you get the owner’s manual, a spare key and the original window sticker. The window sticker shows you the price and a list of your vehicle’s features, which is useful later when you sell or trade in. Most dealers include a full tank of gas and a detail with your new vehicle, so ensure you receive those. Now is also the time to ask any last-minute questions you may have about the vehicle. Ask the salesperson anything you want to know, from how to pair your phone to how to use all the latest advanced safety features.