We had to replace Mr. C’s 14 year old Pontiac last year. It was time. Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of friends talking about replacing their older cars that aren’t as fuel efficient or that are starting to need some pretty costly repairs.
We knew the time to replace the old, creaky Pontiac was coming, so to prepare for the new car I did the following step
- We made a list of cars that met our qualifications: price, specific gas mileage, features (safety & comfort). With a price range in mind, we could make sure that we had enough saved for a down payment.
- We made sure that we had room in our budget for a car payment. We paid my car off last year (an entire year early!! I rounded up payments each month to the closest $10 and when we had extra money from rebates or bonuses, I sent a few extra hundred dollars to the finance company- those things really do help!).
- I had been saving money each paycheck for a down payment. It wasn’t a lot of money each month, but we’ve known for about a year that the Pontiac was on it’s last legs.
- We filed our tax returns as soon as we were able- We wanted to use the majority of our refund toward the downpayment.
- We looked online for vehicles that fit our qualifications, we used connections (that would also provide us discounts) through our credit union, insurance carrier, and through sources like UPromise to find vehicles within our price range.
- We went into the dealerships pre-approved for a loan through our credit union.
- We knew what was on our credit reports and our scores (Thanks to using CreditSesame), so we knew that we could leverage that if needed to try and get a better APR.
- I checked with our insurance carrier prior to purchasing the new car to see what the insurance premiums would look like on several cars on our list. We needed the premiums to stay pretty much the same.
In the end we purchased a 2011 Prius from Toyota of El Cajon. The process was easy, fast (4 hours, but if you’ve bought a car, you know how long it takes), and our sales consultant, Jason Mongold, was awesome. He and his managers helped us find a car that met our criteria and budget, and they gave us a great amount for our trade-in.
Take your time and make sure you review all of your options when buying a car. Whether you buy new or used, from a dealership or private party, do your research!
Carfax Reports– learn all about the car you are about to buy (accidents, title status). Most dealerships that sell pre-owned cars will show you the CarFax report before you purchase.
KBB.com– Find out the value of your trade-in, and the value of the car you are about to purchase.
What are your tips and tricks for purchasing a car?