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6 Things I wish I knew before I bought my first car

Oct 9

You can find information about the cars you are interested in on sites such as Courtesy Automotive. These sites offer safety information and reviews. You can search by make, year, model, mileage range, engine category, or any other criteria that you may have in mind.

They can help you find vehicles for sale by the owners or through a dealer without having to contact anyone.

  • Value: We can estimate the car's value based on its condition and year. This can be helpful when you are ready to negotiate.
  • History of recalls: Make sure that the part(s) affected by the recall were replaced or repaired. You won't be surprised if issues arise.
  • Driver Feedback and Review: Common complaints. These reviews will help you determine if you can live with them -- and if you can afford them. Consumer Reports also conducts thorough car reviews, but you must purchase a membership to gain access.
  • Repairability When considering buying a luxury or older car, think about how easy it is to find parts. Make sure to check with your mechanic to ensure that the car can be repaired.

Get feedback from other drivers of the cars you are interested in. Before buying our SUV, I spoke to my friends who had kids and inquired about their experiences with the vehicle. 

Bottom line: Don't place all your stock in one place. This will make it less likely that you will pay too much or buy a lemon. A Facebook group for your vehicle is another way to find information. You'll likely find one for your specific year and model. These groups can provide a wealth of information.

All this research will help you to determine what you want and how much you can afford. This information is crucial for negotiation and will help you build your confidence.

Take a Solo Test Drive

Take the car for a test drive without any salespeople or current owners. You can concentrate on what you are doing and not be distracted by the chatter of others. You might also feel anxious and have to stop your drive because of a salesperson.

If you can, take the car on smooth and rough roads, city streets, highways, and at night.

My dad would search for a quiet spot on the street or parking lot where he could suddenly stop and drive in swerving patterns to check brakes. When it was my turn, I tried this myself and found a significant difference in the steering of the cars I was interested in. The car I bought had better visibility and was faster and smoother on the freeway.

Maintain DIY maintenance in mind

It is my top priority to purchase a car that I can maintain. You can do a lot of car maintenance or hope to. Take a look under the hood and see what you'll be doing.

Is the oil filter accessible? What is the air filter? What about the fluid reservoirs? It will take many tools to remove components and change the oil. Four hoses were required to reach the oil filter on those old clunkers I drove as an adult.

When I was shopping for my first car without my dad, the first thing I did was ask about the oil filter. It was sitting clear at the top of my engine, and I nearly cried when the salesperson pointed it out.

Get a Free Vehicle History Report

After narrowing the field to the top candidates, get a vehicle history report. Most dealers will give you one for free. You can buy directly from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. There is no need to pay $25 or more from other sources. The NICB will tell you if your car has been stolen or reported as a total loss. This is precisely what you need.

Auto Repair Shop Aurora Colorado

Keep Your Eyes on the Finance Department

The purchase of our first new vehicle was easy until the finance department offered us additional options that could increase the price. You can feel as if you are in a finance office for hours, your head spinning with numbers until you don't know what you're saying yes to. Be firm! Do not give up on your right to say "yes" without thinking it through.

Better yet, arrange to finance at your local credit union before you go. They likely have the best rates. This was our experience. We just had to become members and open a savings account that only held a nominal amount.