Buying a car is the third most adult thing anyone can do right behind purchasing a house and having a kid. And why does it take so long to buy a car? I remember spending all day at the dealership just learning about all the different cars in the showroom. I was getting my dirty little handprints all over their cars. Those car salesmen must have hated me whenever my mom dragged me into a dealership. But in all of the neverending hours I spent in those dealerships, the only lesson I ever took away on how to buy a car was, “have good credit.” 

Now that I am an adult and will probably need to buy a new car for myself pretty soon, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. So if you are anything like me and have no idea what you are doing, hopefully, the advice I’ve gotten from friends and family and some google-fu will help alleviate some of the anxiety. 

Have Good Credit

Having good credit seems to be the golden rule of adulthood. Don’t mess up your credit, and the doors of adulthood will open. Good credit gets you a house, a car, an apartment, better interest on loans, and a bunch of other random things that, for whatever reason, get your credit checked. 

Use the Internet

Buying a car has never been easier than in the age of the internet. You can do so much to help ease the process just by looking around for a car on the internet. If you are anything like me and don’t like talking to strangers, shopping for a car online eliminates dealing with a salesperson more than necessary.  

The other added benefit of using the internet to buy a car is how fundamentally different a car dealership is run online and in person. Most car salespeople make commissions, so they try to negotiate a higher price tag to take away more in their paycheck. 

An online dealership, or at least most of them, has an internet sales manager who has a fixed salary and has incentives for selling more cars, not how high the price of an individual car is.   

Purchase Price, not Monthly Payments

Dealerships love giving potential new buyers an enticing monthly payment. They can seem so nice at face value. Only paying X amount of dollars seems a lot lower than what you had initially planned, but if it’s attached to a 72-month (that’s 6 years for all of you that hate math) payment plan, then maybe it’s not all that great of a deal. 

Do Your Research

This one is obvious, but don’t go and buy the first car on the lot you see. We all usually have a car in mind that we like, but maybe the safety ratings aren’t that good. Or perhaps the car has horrible blind spots that you didn’t know about that make driving the car awful. But on top of researching the car’s aesthetics, look into the invoice price and not the MSRP. The invoice price is what the dealership paid for the car, and that number will help when you go to negotiate a better price.  

To Sum it Up

Buying a new or used car can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time doing it. It’s one of those things that makes you feel like you’re genuinely adulting. It’s a milestone, kind of like turning 13 makes you a teenager, and at 16, you get your license. Eighteen, you can vote, and 21 means you can get a beer. And while there is no set age to buy a car, it is one of the most adult things you can do. You are signing up to pay a set amount each month. Just remember to buy a car that you can afford.

Add-on can be so enticing. Who doesn’t want the shiny, brand-new gadgets? But they are also super expensive. Does your car need a built GPS? Probably not. You have a smartphone. Rearview cameras are super lovely but luxurious at best. Just do yourself a favor and save yourself some money, unless you’re rolling in cash, then go crazy. 

Negotiating car payments and loans sounds super dull but can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. So negotiate. If you need a little practice with your negotiating skills, start by trying to negotiate medical bills. Yeah that’s a thing.

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