How to Find a Car You Want

Car ownership is an exciting and challenging venture. Owning your own car provides the freedom of transportation and the ability to get where you need to go with ease while allowing the flexibility of selling or keeping your car as long as you wish. With the joys of car ownership come equal responsibilities. Practical and financial factors should be taken into consideration to ensure you are purchasing a vehicle that meets your requirements. Whether you are a seasoned car buyer or are purchasing your first vehicle, adhere to these guidelines to successfully purchase the car you desire.


Identify your needs. Consider whether or not you need a standard or automatic vehicle, cargo and hauling capacity and four-wheel or all-wheel drive. Establish how often you will drive, the terrain you will be driving on and how much room you will need for passengers. Make a checklist, paper or mental, and consider these requirements during your quest for a suitable vehicle.

Establish a budget. The Wartburg College website states that monthly car payments should not exceed 20 percent of your take-home pay. Determine the highest possible payment that can realistically fit into your budget and perform your search based on those figures. Don’t forget to factor in any hidden costs, such as damage repairs and gas mileage.

Decide if you are going to buy a new or used vehicle. New vehicles have lower gas mileage than most used vehicles and are easy to re-sell after purchase. In addition, new vehicles from car dealerships don’t require as much background research as used cars. If purchasing a used car, make sure it comes with a manufacturer’s or extended warranty. Warranties can be transferred into the new car owner’s name to ensure liability protection.

Compare similar vehicles and perform background research. Perform an Internet search and find similar vehicles by make and model. Look up a vehicle’s true market value and bring this information with you to the dealership so you don’t forget it. This will expand your options and ensure that you are snagging a fair price at the dealership.

Make initial dealership contact via telephone. Familiarize yourself with the dealership’s method of handling business and make sure your car is available on the lot.

Schedule back-to-back test-driving appointments during the same day at each dealership you are considering buying from. You will immediately detect subtle handling differences from vehicle to vehicle.

Inspect the car thoroughly. Check for evidence of exterior and tire damage, engine leakage and interior damage. Note any discrepancies between gas mileage and vehicle description in official documents versus the car’s physical appearance. Record each vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) number, which can be found on a sticker on the interior driver’s side door or on a metal plate on the dashboard. Note any varying VIN numbers, as this is a sign that the vehicle was severely damaged in the past. If in doubt, a mechanic can run a diagnostic check for a humble $40 to $70, according to the University of Iowa website.

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