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Before You Buy: A Checklist for Buying a Car

There are actually four areas to consider when buying a car. You must determine:

  1. The vehicle you need (versus the one you want)
  2. The value of the vehicle (what it is worth)
  3. The financial considerations for the purchase (how you will pay for it)
  4. and the mechanical integrity of the car (is it mechanically sound)

Of course, there are some differences. between each make and model, but we’ll cover the general brushstroke of topics as a bulleted checklist.

Car Buying Checklist: Determining the Right Vehicle for You

When you buy a car, there are beautiful things and essential things. It’s up to you to decide which is which. If you live in a temperate climate, you may decide that it’s a good thing to have air conditioning. On the other hand, if you live in Dallas, Texas, or Gwinn, Michigan, air conditioning and heating may be more necessary for the summer or winter months, respectively.

Similarly, if you often do business from your car or taking the kids on long road trips, you may find built-in Internet service a must. If, on the other hand, everyone in the family has their own phone or tablet with Internet access, a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot would be unnecessary.

Create your perfect car. Do your homework and visit the automaker’s website to see what features are available on different makes and models. Make a list of what you want in a vehicle. The vehicle you ultimately purchase may not have everybody of nice-to have. But you must have all need-to have. If you make a list, you can find the one that best suits your preferences.

Determine what it’s worth. There are several sites to determine the value. Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book are popular places to assess a vehicle’s value based on features and condition. If you have a trade-in vehicle, be sure to determine the value of your existing vehicle as well, because that will be part of the deal.

Determine what you can afford. If you plan to pay cash, the decision is easy. However, if you plan to finance your purchase, your credit score directly affects the interest rate on your loan. Credit scores below 690 generally incur higher fees. Remember, the cost of the car is not its sticker price minus any trade-in value and incentives. Includes interest paid on the financing of any loan. Financial education sources like The Financial Acumen Course teach how to improve your credit score to save money. It’s up to you to protect your credit and avoid being exploited by predatory lenders, so shop around. Don’t go overboard on credit by buying more cars than you can afford.

Inspect the vehicle before you buy it. You want to buy a reliable vehicle, not a maintenance headache. Any purchase of a used vehicle is a situation in which the buyer must be careful, even if it is done through a reputable dealer. If you have a mechanic, expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $200 for a full vehicle inspection. If you don’t have a mechanic, there are a couple of stopgap alternatives. You could take the vehicle to a third-party repair shop that does state inspections as a cheaper option. However, if you feel comfortable and knowledgeable doing so, you may inspect the vehicle yourself. Among other things like the brakes, the silencer and the suspension, Check the oil. You can tell a lot about the condition of the engine by looking at the condition of the vehicle’s oil.

Doing a self-inspection on a vehicle takes a bit of time. It’s a dirty job, but if you’re familiar with cars, it’s your cheapest option. Pre-purchase inspection is a must for both your peace of mind and to reduce hidden repair costs.

Once you have found the most suitable vehicle, made sure you have the means to pay for it and checked its mechanical integrity, you’re ready to move on with your new set of wheels.

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