Your Ultimate Car Shopping Guide
(Make Sure to Cross These Off Your “What to Look For” Checklist)
Wouldn’t car shopping be easier if there were a “What to look for” checklist that could steer you towards a vehicle that matches your personality without sideswiping your bank account? The list below does just that while keeping the process streamlined and effective. Dealing with a car dealership can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be when you’re prepared. Whether you print it or save it to your mobile device, refer to this checklist often as you navigate the auto buying process.
Your Ultimate Car Shopping Guide Checklist
Identify Your Needs
Start with identifying the total amount you’re comfortable spending, given your other financial goals. This is the overall cost, not the monthly payment amount. Once you have a figure in mind, look at cars that fall within that price range. Then identify the vehicle type, size, and category given your budget and driving needs.
□ The primary use of the vehicle, e.g., commute to work or school ___
□ Predominant driving terrain, e.g., dirt roads, highways, etc. ___
□ Number of passengers the vehicle should be able to transport comfortably ___
From there, narrow your selection by model year and desired features.
Do Your Research
Now that you have a general idea of the type of vehicle that will meet your needs, it’s time to do your research using a respected industry website such as Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book. These websites allow you to review cars by category. Pay particular attention to the pros and cons of each vehicle.
Next, contact your insurance carrier. Request a quote for the type of car you’re considering. Compare the quoted rate with at least three other insurance companies. To further simplify the process, Edmunds.com also offers a cost of ownership calculator, which can help you factor in insurance costs, fuel, depreciation, and maintenance expenses.
□ Estimated annual fuel cost ___
□ Estimated annual insurance coverage costs ___
□ Estimated annual cost of ownership ___
Learn the Fair Market Value
When you know the fair market value of the vehicle, you can feel confident in your ability to negotiate with the seller. If you have a vehicle that you’d like to trade in, confirm the value of that vehicle as well. Consumers can use trusted industry sources such as Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book to obtain these values.
□ Fair market value is ___
□ Trade-in value is ___
Secure Auto Financing
Check your credit before applying for an auto loan. A low credit score may result in an auto loan with a higher interest rate, which will affect the monthly payment and the overall cost of the vehicle. Improve your credit score before you apply for an auto loan. Paying your creditors on time and reducing or eliminating other debt obligations can improve your credit.
Unlike many other financial institutions, Hughes Federal Credit Union offers up to 100% financing and the same interest rate for all approved applicants. The interest rate tied to your loan is based on the loan period (up to 72 months or 84 months) and whether it is an adjustable or fixed rate loan.
□ Check my credit by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com
□ Apply for a new or used auto loan with Hughes Federal Credit Union
You’ve done the research and secured financing, so now it’s time to start shopping. Read online reviews about the dealership before you step into the showroom. This helps you identify which dealers have the largest selection and best customer service, while helping you steer clear of high-pressure salespeople. Plan on visiting more than one dealership before deciding on your vehicle.
□ Read car dealership reviews
Bring these items to the car dealership:
□ Loan pre-approval notification from Hughes Federal Credit Union
□ Driver’s License
□ Down payment
□ Proof of insurance
Even though you’ve conducted the online research, it’s essential that you test drive the vehicle before you begin negotiations. If the vehicle meets your expectations, make an offer below the fair market value, and be prepared to counter offer. Once your offer is accepted, review the sales contract before signing on the dotted line to make sure figures are as agreed.
□ Test drive
□ Request a vehicle history report if it's a used car
□ Check the manufacturer’s website for rebates using your smart phone as the salesperson may not be aware of current offers
□ Propose an initial offer amount below the fair market value
□ Submit a counteroffer
□ Review the sales contract and warranty information
□ Purchase Your Vehicle!