Unless you’re going to a Ford, Toyota, or Chevy dealer to pass a little time before your movie starts, or to get away from the house while your mother-in-law is visiting, you owe it to yourself to do a few things first.
These eight duties will each make your life much easier if you find a car, truck, van, or SUV you want to buy on the spot. Although some of them may take a little time, they’ll save you plenty of trouble later.
1. Make sure you have your trade-in vehicle’s title.
Are you someone who is notoriously disorganized? You probably have the title of your trade-in shoved between other papers. Do yourself a favor and look for it. Check every drawer, every box, and every niche in your home.
Although you can still trade in your vehicle without it, you’ll pay more than you want because the dealer will charge you to order a new copy. Who wants to add another $100 or more if you can avoid it? Besides, it’s a chance for you to de-clutter in the process… bonus!
2. Get a copy of your credit report.
Not going to pay for your new vehicle outright? You’ll need financing, and that means the lender will want to check out your credit report. First, though, you need to have a good indication of what your financier will see.
Order a free credit report from Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian; the law states that they must each provide you with a complimentary report annually. Look over the report to ensure that it’s accurate and up-to-date. See a discrepancy? Get on the phone right away. The last thing you need is to find out at the Chevy dealership that your credit is lackluster because of mistakes.
3. Check out your vehicle’s honest trade-in value.
This is quite simple to do online and shouldn’t take up too much of your time. Be honest when inputting your information, and think the way the dealer will. For instance, would anyone really call your 15-year-old car in good condition if it’s dinged up and barely getting two-thirds of its original gas mileage?
You may want to run a few trade-in reports to get a general gauge. Not sure you’ll be good at the negotiating game? Print off the trade-in documents to help you discuss value with your salesperson.
4. Evaluate your capital and see what you can absorb.
It’s quite easy to get excited when you hop into a new Ford and realize that it’s the car you’ve been dreaming about for a long time. All that adrenaline can lead to poor decision-making, especially when it comes to your finances.
Rather than trying to figure out how you can pay for your new or pre-owned vehicle when you’re in the showroom or standing outside in the lot, have your figures in hand. Know what you can afford to put down on your next vehicle, as well as the wisest per-month payment amount.
5. Pick a few dealerships to visit unless you have one you trust 100-percent.
Unless you have to get a new set of wheels immediately due to the untimely demise of your only ride, you should have enough time to visit a few dealerships. Not only will you get a good idea of each dealer’s style, but you’ll be able to test drive several makes and models.
What’s the best way to find the right dealerships? Pour over their customer feedback and ratings online. The top ones in your market will come to the top pretty rapidly.
6. Consider whether you would prefer to buy or lease a vehicle.
There are advantages and disadvantages to every vehicle decision, including purchasing versus leasing. For example, if you decide that you want to own your vehicle, it will be yours (as long as you keep up with payments) until you trade it in. For people who love to drive their cars, SUVs, and trucks “into the ground,” this is usually the right choice.
On the other hand, if you’re constantly upgrading your vehicles to the latest models, you may be better off doing a lease with a dealership. A lease means you don’t own the vehicle but are basically going to use it for a specific period of time. Currently, many manufacturers are offering incredible deals on leasing, so it may make sense as a consideration. Additionally, if you’re planning to use your vehicle for commercial miles, your lease may be completely (or mostly) tax deductible. Ask your accountant to be sure.
7. Bring a trusted friend or family member along for a second opinion.
Unless you’re an old hat at navigating the world of dealerships and car or truck buying, you’ll do better if you bring along someone to give you honest opinions. They can help you deliberate, and will usually have different perspectives than yours.
Before going to the dealership, talk with your friend about what you want to achieve. Are you more interested in testing out a few used Chevy cars or trucks, but not making a deal quite yet? Or do you need a new vehicle immediately? The more he or she knows, the more help you’ll get.
8. Set aside enough time for browsing — and possibly buying.
Have only 30 minutes to spare? You’ll be disappointed to learn that it’s not enough. Buying a new vehicle isn’t like getting a carton of eggs. To do it right, you have to give yourself the proper amount of time.
What’s more suitable? If you just want to ask a few questions and maybe take a spin in one or potentially two cars, an hour or so is fine. On the other hand, if you’re setting foot in the dealership with the belief that you aren’t leaving without a new-to-you vehicle, you should put aside at least three hours to have the best experience.
Serious about investing in a new-to-you vehicle? Put in a little work upfront and you’ll come out of the process knowing you made the wisest deal