Car buying can be a positive experience. Really!
Buying a car can seem like a daunting process especially if you have never done it before and don’t know what to expect. Maybe your spouse is deployed and you have to do it on your own. Or you are worried about all of the different steps of the process and want to make sure you have the correct paperwork.
The perfect situation is to get a new (or new-to-us) car as quickly and painlessly as possible. A little preparation can go a long way toward making the transaction easier and saving you money.
Here are 10 tips to help you have a smooth ride on your car purchasing journey:
- Use an online car loan calculator to help determine what you can afford for a monthly payment. Don’t forget to estimate the cost of insurance and factor that in as well.
- Check your credit report, which is free once a year. Look for any red herrings that may affect your score, such as unpaid bills or a large number of outstanding loans. You can also check your specific credit score for a fee with any of the three large credit reporting agencies. If your credit rating is on the low side, you may need to make improvements to raise your score.
- Use a lender whose mission is to serve military customers. If your spouse is gone and you’re buying a car on your own, you’ll likely need a power of attorney. You’ll have to decide if you are going to apply for a loan jointly (most likely) or on your own. You’ll also have to decide if the car will be registered in both your names or not.
- Get pre-approved for a loan before you visit any dealerships. This not only gives you a firm number of what your credit union or bank will finance, it also gives you leverage with the salesperson. How? Because pre-approval basically means you are a cash buyer, and it lets the dealer know you have done your homework. You can apply for a pre-approval online or via phone.
- Consider using a car-buying service to search vehicles with prearranged pricing, compare side-by-side features, read reviews and check safety information.
- Ask your dealer if they offer a military discount. You can also research which manufacturers offer military specials.
- Check for hidden fees. Sometimes a “no haggle” price looks great, only to find a “delivery charge” or other costs tacked on in the fine print. Depending on the fee, this can raise the price of your car by as much $1000.
- Trust your own instincts and the solid information you gathered during through your research and loan application process. Sure, the salesperson might say you can afford that fancy big truck (and that the gas mileage isn’t that bad), but you’ve done the math and the paperwork.
- Check with your state of residence and/or home of record for any tax-free benefits or discounts on registration for military personnel. In Florida, for example, military members who are residents but stationed outside the state don’t have to pay sales tax on a new car purchase.
- When it’s all said and done, buying a car, especially for the first time, is a huge personal accomplishment. Have fun and drive safely!