5 Tips for Car Shopping

I’ve been thinking about getting a new car for a few months now, but haven’t wanted to fully make the move because I’ve been car payment-free, having had my car for 9 years (since high school)! But since my window regulator has been broken for awhile, I haven’t been able to roll down my driver window (literally every other window rolls down), which has been driving me crazy! You don’t realize how much you actually use your window.. until you can’t. But the $400 to replace the part just didn’t seem justifiable, so this weekend I finally decided to go car shopping! Here’s what I learned.

5 tips for car shopping

  1. DO figure out your budget in advance. Will you be putting any money down? Trading in a vehicle? How much can you afford each month? This is the most important thing to have figured out before you head to any dealership.
  2. DO research beforehand. Narrow your list down to your top car(s) and see what kind of deals are available online at the dealer you plan to visit, as well as some others. Check out the features that you might be interested in, find out what the ballpark MSRP (sticker price) might be, and come in with a list of questions/concerns.
  3. DO be clear about what you want. Are there certain features or color you want for your car? Do you want to lease or buy? What do you definitely want and definitely not want? These are important to let the salesperson know upfront.
  4. DON’T fall for the false sense of urgency. There are so many tricks up the sales guys’ sleeves, I can’t even. They’ll try anything they can to get you to buy on the spot, namely telling you a deal is available today but “might not” be available tomorrow. Chances are, the deal likely WILL be available tomorrow if you’re ready to come in and buy.
  5. DON’T complete a sale your first day in. If you absolutely need a car right away, you can disregard this one. But if it’s not imperative you buy that day, go in for a test drive, get all of the facts straight, and then you can haggle from home if/when you’re ready to make a deal. Since salespeople work on commission, they’ll probably call you right after you leave (mine did) to try to sweeten the deal. Tell them you’ll think on it and then if you have their cell phone number, text them to haggle that way you’re not put on the spot over the phone AND you have promised deals in writing.

So what was the end result of my car shopping and test driving this weekend? I got a new car! Ah! It was bittersweet saying goodbye to my ride of 9 years, who happened to have the most epic name (Weeble Tiberius II), but I’m also really excited to have a new type of car and so many new features (that weren’t available 9 years ago) that I don’t know what to do with myself! And if you’re wondering about the name for my new one, I’m still working on it.

Are you in the market for a new car? What tips do you have for car shopping?

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  • Hooray for a new car! What did you end up getting?! We’re thinking about selling ours (ford escape) and getting the next size up next year!

    • Hooray, indeed! I ended up going with a Mazda CX-5. I had a compact but moved on up to the SUV. Have you had your Ford long?

      • We’ve had it for about a year and we really love it, but it’s just a tad bit too small!

  • Tisha Nagel

    HI! Coming over from Helene in Between. Great timing on your post. My husband and I have been putting off getting a new car. We know the style of car we want. Mostly we are excited that the features are missing in our 10 year old cars are basically standard now.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Tisha! Sounds like you’re in the same boat I was! It’s like an entirely different world with the features then and now. It’s going to take me awhile to get used to the no physical key thing. I’m happy I at least still have a CD player in there lol. Which car are you looking at getting?

      • Tisha Nagel

        We will be getting some sort of small SUV. We have an Escape now from 2005 that we hope to keep until the wheels fall off. That size fits our family well. I see you went with the Mazda CX-5, what other small SUVs did you look at? We have friends that have a variety of models and I’ve gotten to ride in them and see them in use. Hubby and I just need to start test driving to see which one we like the best before we narrowing down.

        • That was actually the only one I went in to look at. I’ve only driven Mazdas (this one’s #3) and always felt very comfortable in them. Plus, I survived being hit 2x in my Mazdas, so I feel so much safer in them!

  • Rae

    Great tips! When I got my car, I used TrueCar and used that to negotiate to the price I wanted. I knew how long of a lease I wanted, and the payment I wanted and (an idea) of how much the downpayment needed to be. I think because I went by myself (my husband is a horrible negotiator), they tried to sell me on all kinds of things I didn’t need or want… like gloves and a license plate frame and an exhaust package.

    • Great idea! I was checking out some similar sites too. Car salespeople just have such bad reps as a whole, I’m extremely skeptical going in! I brought my dad with me since this was my first car experience on my own, which was helpful. I was the stern one with negotiating though!

  • Buying a car is the WORST. I thought I’d in my mid-20s with a fairly successful job, I can do this. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. The first attempt was terrible. I felt pressured and lost and confused. I’m so glad I was able to admit I will never fully adult and convince my grandpa to come with me the second time when I actually bought my car. I agree that these tips are definitely helpful!

    • It’s definitely helpful to bring someone else along as a first-timer! I brought my dad along to help out. I made sure to do a lot of research beforehand and was ready to be firm about what I wanted/didn’t want, which was helpful!

  • The false sense of urgency always gets me. I’m really spontaneous about big purchases (which is totally backwards, I know!) and salespeople can always snag me.

    • I’m the same! Going car shopping was kind of a build-up but actually deciding to pull the trigger on it was pretty spontaneous. It helped having a set price (ish) set in my head going in!

  • yay for new cars! we have bought both of our new to us cars from a smaller ‘mom and pop’ type car dealership. they didn’t act like typical salesmen, were completely honest and straight with us, whereas we went to a big car dealership and they kept changing their costs etc and it just left a bad taste in my mouth. i actually used to work for car dealerships (at home, but they are seriously the same in both countries!) and can’t stand some of the tricks and how sleazy some of them can be.

    • I wish there were more mom and pop type places, I definitely prefer them! It’s esp the worst when the salespeople flat out say “no tricks here,” it pretty much guarantees there’s something shady going on!

  • CDG

    Tip #6 — Dragging your Dad along probably helps too!!

  • Great tips! I’m in the process of finding the right car and these are good things to know!

  • I went car shopping a little over a year ago and these things are definitely true! They tried to convince me that certain sales wouldn’t last.. but when I pressed the guy further, there was an even BETTER sale planned for the following weekend, when I was aiming to buy the car. I’m glad I didn’t let them pressure me. I knew exactly what car I wanted ahead of time so that helped me too ;)

    • Ugh, they’re really the worst! Knowing what you want going in definitely helps! I had narrowed it down to 2 but after seeing one of them in person I hated it and wanted to move along to the other (which I ended up getting)!

  • Good advice! I think my boyfriend and I are going to car shop again soon. We bought a truck last year, but we’re starting to think it doesn’t make much sense since we live in the city… We might sell the truck and downgrade to a used car. We’ll see how it goes! I totally agree about being clear and firm about what you want. When we got our truck, it was selling for 17k but we said our budget was 15k. My boyfriend almost decided to just give in, but I pushed him to be firm about the 15k budget. So, the salesperson gave in and we got what we wanted! Salesmen are pushy, so sometimes you just have to dish it right back!

    • Good luck! You definitely want to make sure your investment is worth it, so if this one isn’t for you, trading it in isn’t a bad idea! Totally with you on dishing it back too. I think I had my guard up so much I was dishing it before they even started lol.