Six Tips For Buying a Car You Can Afford

by Joe Plemon on October 26, 2009

Creative Commons License photo credit: dno1967

Buying a car is a big deal. You want to get a great car that you love but you also don’t want to pay more than you can afford. These tips will walk you through the process so that you can feel good about your purchase, not only the day you take possession but also a year or three years later.

1. Set Your Budget.

Your budget is how much cash you can afford to pay for your car, not what your monthly payments are going to be. If you have to borrow the money, you can’t afford the car. If I have just described you, then pay yourself those monthly payments until you have enough cash saved up to buy a car.

2. Do Your Research.

Knowledge is power. Decide before actually looking what kind of car you want. Think about how you are going to use it, what kind of mileage you will be putting on it and simply if you like it. Talk to friends who have similar models. Check Kelly Blue Book for prices and customer reviews. I knew before I purchased my current car exactly what I wanted and what it should cost. It took me a while, but I found the right car at the right price and have had zero regrets.

3. Use walk away power.

If the dealer or owner will not negotiate, you must be able and willing to walk away. Doing so puts you in control so your purchase will be made with a clear mind and not under the influence of “car fever”.

4. Be aware of pressure tactics.

Dealers will tell you that this price is only good until a certain date. Huh? Why would it suddenly get more valuable on that date? Realize that this is a pressure technique. A private seller could tell you that others are looking at the same car. While this may or may not be true, the point is that you need to stay in control of your purchase. The world will not come to an end if you don’t drive away in the car you are feeling pressured about.

5. Ask specific questions about the car and expect specific answers.

If you ask what kinds of mechanical troubles the car has experienced, you don’t want to hear the seller say, “Well, hardly any at all.” Push him to get the specific answer you are looking for.

6. Have your mechanic check it out.

I confess that I haven’t always done this, but I should. In this age of computers, your mechanic will be able to access the computer code and tell what kinds of issues and repairs the vehicle has had. Of course he can also give it a once over to trouble shoot problems you might have overlooked. It is not smart to trust a stranger who tells you the car is in perfect condition.

There you have it. Other than a house, your car is probably going to be the most expensive purchase you will make. Take your time and do it right.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog October 26, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Great tips for buying a car. I need to have a mechanic check out my future car purchases. I haven’t done this and have had troubles a couple times.


Forest June 13, 2010 at 5:28 am

This is about the best advice ANYONE can heed when buying everything! “If you have to borrow the money, you can’t afford the car”

Affording payments is not affording the object!!!!

Great post. Also a police check is worthwhile, If it’s too good to be true, it often is! And sometimes great priced cars are stolen, turn out to be two cars welded together and many things…..


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