1. Check the Checkbook

If you’re going to be a smart shopper, you’ve got to start with the basics. Don’t go anywhere near a car lot or a sale until you’ve got a firm understanding of how much you can spend on a vehicle. If you’re planning to purchase a vehicle from a dealership or sign up for a lease, make sure your budget can handle the added weight of a car payment. You can make use of on online car loan calculator to estimate what the cost of a vehicle will be.

Keep in mind the vehicle calculations don’t just mean a monthly payment; factor in fuel and insurance costs, too.

  1. Vehicle Decisions, Vehicle Decisions

Got a budget set? Great! Now you need to figure out the best vehicle for your needs. Car or truck? Luxury or practical? New, used, or certified pre-owned? SUV or a hybrid? Buy or lease? Dealership or repo sale? Online or that car with the For Sale sign in the window down the street? And we haven’t even gotten the price yet.

This is why it’s important to do a budget before you start looking at vehicles, especially with the aid of a car loan payment calculator. With so many options available, it’s unwise to start looking until you have a better understanding of what you need the vehicle for. Take time to decide what the vehicle will be used for before you start shopping, get your hands on as much reference material about a vehicles as you can, then narrow the choice of vehicles down to a handful before proceeding.

Some quick generalizations on purchase types:

-New means new but usually expensive and possibly features like roadside assistance.

-Used will be cheaper but will include a higher interest rate combined with a shorter warranty period and unknown wear-and-tear history.

-Certified pre-owned can be less expensive then new vehicles and offer more features.

  1. Get That Money (Financing)

Unless you’ve got cash, buying a vehicle typically means some form of financing. Dealerships will happily set up the financing, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice. Before you visit the dealership, head to a bank or credit union and investigate their financing options and compare that information to what the dealership offers.

Something to keep in mind when it comes to financing: The people selling the car really want you to buy the car, but you’re the one that has the final say. If you can find a better deal somewhere else, don’t hesitate to go for it.

  1. Negotiate This

Ready to make a purchase? Don’t’ be afraid to negotiate hard. If you’re planning on trading in a current vehicle, make sure you know its value but don’t include it when negotiating the price of the new vehicle (you can always bring that up later). Did the salesman make any promises during the pitch? Hold them to it. A bunch of extras being offered at an increased price. Just say no if you want and make use of that car loan interest calculator. And read the agreement thoroughly to make sure everything you’ve agreed gets included and extra fees don’t get tagged on.

  1. Deep Breaths, Steady Steps

Time can be your best asset when purchasing a vehicle, so don’t rush into any agreement until you’re ready to commit. From getting your finances in order to finding the best financing options available, make time your alley and don’t rush into any decisions.

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