Buying a car for the first time can be intimidating. From the disreputable reputations of salespeople to the realities of financing fine print, how does a buyer know if they’re making the right choice?
There’s plenty of advice available. Many industry experts are wise, cultivating years of data from buyers’ experiences. But other “experts” may lead a buyer toward a vehicle with their own financial gain as the top priority.
Used cars have more potential issues, but first-time new car buyers should take note. The auto industry continues to collectively improve its products. There’s more competition, so carmakers have improved their respective vehicles to keep up with each other.
Still, the car-buying process should begin with three areas of consideration.
Buyer honesty is a must. A new red sports car might be a great impulse buy. But it’s not an ideal vehicle for your two young kids, the family dog and groceries. Be honest in determining the best vehicle for your needs.
Buying a used vehicle could be a wise investment since it could appreciate. But with rare exception, buying a new car is not a good investment. As soon it leaves the showroom floor, it’s worth less.
That said, investigate the best purchase plan. If you’re paying cash, fine. But does a bank or credit union offer the best rate? Is leasing a desirable option? Know the warranty details since maintenance and repairs are a major part of the car-buying equation.
Lastly, don’t overlook the importance of comfort. Test drives shouldn’t be brief encounters. Take your time. Make a few trips. How’s the leg room, head room and seat height? Does the steering and braking feel right? Is there good overall visibility?
Some cars instantly feel comfortable, like a favorite family room chair. That’s a good thing in car-buying, too.
Article Last Updated: September 29, 2015.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.