The Ultimate Car Buying Guide
We get it, buying a car can be intimidating. That’s why we do everything in our power to be as up front and transparent as possible, and why we try to give you every little piece of information you’re looking for. The ultimate guide to buying a car is just one more way we’re putting our money where our mouth is and giving you everything you need to know about how to buy a car before you even step through our doors.
STEP ONE: Figure out how much car you can afford
The first step in buying a new or used car should be to figure out how much you can afford. Figure out how much you can afford per month, if you’re planning to take out a loan or lease, or figure out what the maximum you can spend is if you’re planning to do a one-pay lease, or buying your vehicle out right.
There are tons of payment calculators out there. You can use ours by clicking here, finding a calculator (like ours) that lets you work in both directions: you can either put in your maximum payment and get the price point you should be looking to stay in or put in the maximum you’re willing to pay for a vehicle and it’ll give you the payment you can expect. Spending some time on a payment calculator also lets you play with down payment amounts, and many other options.
Don’t forget to think about additional costs like sales tax, documentation fees, and much more. According to our friends at KBB, an old rule of thumb is to add 10% to cover this.
At this point it’s good to consider whether you are also planning to buy or lease. Some considerations in buying and leasing include:
How many miles do you drive?
How often do you want to upgrade your vehicle?
You can learn more about the differences by clicking here.
STEP TWO: Let’s talk about finance
Once you’ve figured out how much your payment can be per month, it’s time to start thinking about your finance options. The way that most consumers prefer to do it, especially if you plan to lease, is to come into our dealership and meet with a member of our team. If this is the first time you’ve ever bought a car, it might be best to get the financing out of the way before you start looking at cars so that you don’t fall in love with something that banks won’t approve for you.
At our dealership, though it’s much easier to do it in person, we can even bang this out for you online by sending you our no-impact credit pre-approval, or even our full credit application.
Another way to do this, is to have a conversation with your finance institution ahead of time where they’ll approve you and give you an amount to stay within. The reason that many people prefer to do this in store is because doing it through a dealership gets you the best possible rate, because we go through 20 or 30 lenders.
STEP TWO AND A HALF: Got a trade in?
Once you’ve figured out how much you can afford, and you’ve got your financing secured, you might want to take this as an opportunity to figure out what your trade in is worth. This is another reason it’s often times easier to do step two in store.
A major reason to figure out how much your trade in vehicle is worth, is what we call the equity factor! It could be icing on the cake, or can subtract from the amount of vehicle you’re able to purchase!
Let’s look at the Equity Factor. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the bank approved you for $25,000 and your trade in is worth $5,000. That means that you have a total of $30,000 to work with. That also works the other way – if you have a loan on your vehicle and it’s worth less than you owe – it goes the other direction. Let’s once again assume the bank approved you for $25,000 for your vehicle, but you owe $6,000 on a vehicle worth $5,000 – that means you actually have $24,000 to work with.
When you bring your vehicle in for an inspection, it’ll be appraised by one of our professional buyers. They’ll give you an exact value on how much your vehicle is worth and let us calculate the equity factor! You can also get a rough idea of how much your trade in may be worth so you can get a rough idea of your own equity factor.
STEP THREE: It’s time to fall in love!
You will undoubtedly have an idea of what you’re looking for in a car. We always recommend that people get an idea of what features they want their car to have – and organize them by what you have to have, what you want to have, and what you don’t want. Click here for a copy of our car wishlist template – that way all you have to do is print it out and bring it with you!
Another reason why knowing exactly what you want is helpful is because any reputable website is going to let you filter by these options! For example, on our website, we let you filter by options like vehicles that only have a 3rd row, vehicles that are only a certain color, vehicles only have Apple Car Play/Android Auto, etc. We have more than 100 possible ways to filter vehicles on our website, but you get the idea. If you’re buying a used vehicle, we also give you a detailed vehicle inspection report including more than 40 photos showing any imperfection, etc.
We can’t speak for everyone else, but at Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC we have a dedicated Guest Relations Department that will go over all of your must haves and set an appointment for you so that your product specialist knows exactly what you want and has them your options ready for you!
In order to test drive a vehicle you’ll need to have a valid driver’s license, and proof of insurance. You’ll also have to sign a test drive agreement, so that we’re all on the same page. A member of our team will put a plate on the vehicle, and you’ll be off. During the test drive they’ll be there to answer any questions you may have, and to give you directions on how to get around our test drive route, but aside from that the goal is to let you get to know the vehicle.
STEP FOUR: Get comfortable with your ride
So you’ve found THE car, now you want to know more about it.
If you fell in love with a used car, you’ll want to get a vehicle history report so you can see recalls, accidents, some vehicles even have their service records included on their vehicle history report.
You may also want to have the vehicle looked over by a trusted mechanic – so you’ll want to make arrangements for that to happen. This may or may not be feasible, depending on the distance of your mechanic from the dealership of the car, but it never hurts to ask, if it’s not feasible or if you don’t feel the need – you’ll still want to make sure you ask about the dealership’s reconditioning process. For example, at our dealership we have an entire reconditioning department, lead by our used car managers and a reconditioning manager, who’s entire job is to bring our used vehicles up to our standards.
We know that buying a car is the 2nd biggest investment that most people will ever make and we want you to be comfortable. That’s why once you’ve found the car you love from our dealership, we give you everything you need. We’ll provide you a live market analysis of how we arrived at the price of your used vehicle, we’ll give you a CarFax for your vehicle, etc.
Whether you’re buying a new or used vehicle you’ll also want to consider the reputation of the dealership you’re buying a vehicle from. You can do this by reading the dealership’s reviews on across platforms like Facebook, Google, DealerRater, or Cars.com, as well as the history of that dealership. For example, our dealership has been around for nearly 100 years and has been reviewed over 5,000 times with an average rating of 4.6/5.0.
STEP FIVE: The Finance Process (time to make it official!)
Let’s recap. So far you’ve figured out how much vehicle you can afford, and if you should lease or purchase, you’ve figured out your finance options, you’ve worked with a product specialist to get a value for your trade in, and you’ve found the perfect car after you got comfortable with it. So now what? We know that’s a lot – but there’s some good news! You’re at the end!
It’s time to sign some paperwork! To be totally honest – you’re going to sign a fair amount of paperwork, but your Finance Manager will explain it to you step by step and make sure you know exactly what you’re signing. The type of paperwork will depend on whether you’re buying or leasing, and whether you secured your own financing ahead of time.
During the finance paperwork you’ll also be given the chance to buy extended warranties, and other coverages.
These are warranties that will go beyond the warranty that comes with your new ride. So, for example, if you’re buying a used vehicle from us, from the start you’re going to get our Certified Platinum Warranty that we offer on almost every used vehicle we sell. Examples of some of the common warranties you’ll be able to buy include: