Buy smarter: Tips for purchasing a vehicle


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) – Car buying is expensive and it’s typically the second most expensive purchase most people make next to a home. Vehicle buying can be an emotional experience.  To avoid spur-of-the-moment decisions, here are some tips.

  • Determine your budget – To help keep your auto costs in check, a suggestion is to spend no more than 20 percent of your monthly household income on car-related costs for all the vehicles in your household. Remember that the 20 percent number includes all costs associated with your car, such as repairs, maintenance, auto insurance and your car payment. Loan calculators are available on most financial websites to help give you a guide.
  • Don’t assume a small budget equals a used car – Used cars in certain areas are in shorter supply than new cars, which can make them more expensive than similar cars in the past and harder to get a good deal. If you plan to spend at least $14,000, then assess your options for both new and used cars, and then make your choice. Fuel economy may also be a factor to consider when deciding what best fits you.
  • Be thorough in your test drive – It’s likely you will own your next car for many years, and that means logging a lot of time in the driver’s seat. Make sure you’ll be comfortable and happy with your car for the long term by ensuring your test drive takes you through all the typical driving situations, and don’t hesitate to ask for more time if you need it.

Allocate extra time with the car parked to fully review the seating position, controls and all of the other features. If you carry specific cargo regularly or use car seats for your kids, do a test of those items to ensure a good fit.

  • Financing is key – There are multiple ways to finance. Some people like to get pre-approved at their credit union or bank prior to shopping.  This helps in understanding just how much vehicle you can afford, keeps your budget in line, and helps keep you focused on the actual purchase.  For convenience, many credit unions and banks have a relationship with auto dealers so customers can get their financing right on the spot.  For many consumers, this is a time saving and convenient option, a one-stop-shop experience.

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