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The Rookie Roadster’s Guide to What to Look For When Buying Your First Car

Buying a car – especially your first one – is an exciting experience that starts with researching what you want and ends with that first moment behind the wheel.

But the process can be intimidating. You might feel like you’re drowning in paperwork and foreign vocabulary in the middle of your car-buying journey. Luckily, there is plenty of information to help you get over the initial pangs of anxiety. 

Ready to hit the road? Here are a few pointers to get you started on the right foot. 

Buying online vs. in-person

Buying a car has changed drastically in the past decade. With dealerships like Carvana popping up and removing the middleman car salesperson, buying a car online has never been easier – even one across state lines. Transporting cars to another state is not as challenging as you might believe. You do lose the fun of test driving multiple cars at a dealership. Still, there is the benefit of having tons of choices online versus whatever is available at the dealership.

Figure out your car needs

A young first-time buyer needs to ask the hard-hitting question: “What am I buying this car for?” If you are buying this car to get from point A to point B and you are a no-frills kind of person, then a smaller four-door or subcompact car is a safe bet. Do you enjoy the rev and the power of an engine? A sports car sounds fun. Are you carting yourself and others around town? A mid-size SUV might do the trick. Enjoy the outdoors and like tossing your stuff in a truck bed? A small truck is likely in your future. The point here is that establishing your needs versus your wants is a cornerstone of the buying experience.

Set an honest budget

It is easy for your eyes to glaze over looking at the price of a new or used car these days. But get real: before you set foot in a dealership, you need to look at your financial situation and figure out what you can afford on a monthly payment if you (or your parents) plan to finance it. Start saving, too. A healthy down payment, or even a total payment upfront, will put you in a better position at the dealership. Do not forget to factor in the cost of insurance and gas in this monthly calculation. 

Before you go 

Take these tips into consideration before you make your purchase. This purchase is a significant decision, and no one deserves to be taken advantage of while you get ready. 

Research heavily before you decide to make a decision. Test drive as many cars as possible. Ask yourself: “Do I just like this car, or am I in love with it?” You will want to buy the car you are in love with more than anything else. Most importantly, be excited. A car is not just a mode of transportation for many people – it is an extension of who they are as people. 

With all that said, be sure to enjoy the ride. 

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