Buying a car is a commitment that requires some forethought and planning for best results. That said, it’s entirely possible that you’re under a time crunch and need to buy a car as soon as possible. In that case you may be wondering, “Can you buy a car and take it home the same day?”
Yes, you can — if you know exactly what you do or don’t want, have your documents ready and are financially prepared. Let’s explore these details and the possibility of buying and taking home a car the same day.
Process of buying a car: Traditional timeline
Let’s first establish a brief understanding of the traditional process of buying a car, which generally takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. In general, here’s how long it takes to buy a car:
- Research: This is the initial phase of the buyer’s journey, where they start earnestly looking into their available options and comparing different cars to determine which one best suits their needs. This phase can potentially take a few days to several weeks, depending on how thorough the buyer is when doing their research.
- Shopping: Once you’ve narrowed down the type of car you’d generally like to get, it’s time to start shopping around for it. This may involve visiting local dealerships or browsing online retailers and can take a few days to fully compare prices and find the best deal.
- Financing: Once you’ve found a great car, you’ll need to fill out all the necessary paperwork if you require financing for your car purchase. During this stage, lenders will evaluate your financial information and run a credit check to see what kinds of loan terms you qualify for. Some buyers prefer to get financing before they start shopping, so that they’re fully aware of what kind of budget they’ll be working with.
Can you drive a car off the lot the same day?
Yes, a person can technically buy a car and drive it home the same day. However, given what you now know about how long it traditionally takes to research, shop and finance a car, you can see how this may be tricky to pull off. Taking a car home the same day will still take a lot of forethought and planning. Some key considerations may be:
- Limiting your search to local dealerships and whatever they have in stock
- Having cash on hand to pay for the full purchase, OR
- Securing financing before heading to the dealer, OR
- Getting approved for same day auto financing or an “instant” loan (which typically has very stringent requirements)
- Having all required paperwork on hand to complete the sale, including insurance coverage already lined up. You can’t drive off the lot without it.
Tips to save time when buying a car
Although buying a car within a single day may be difficult to pull off for some buyers, there are some strategies you can use to help speed the process along a little:
Having a clear idea of what you want
Asking yourself questions about how you’ll use the car, what you really need from it and what kinds of things are non-negotiable for you can seem tedious, but it helps you clarify what you want. Should you buy new or used? Do you need space for a growing family? How about storage for road trips? This kind of questioning helps ensure you buy the car that’s right for you.
Sorting out financing early
Getting your financing early on, possibly even as your first step, can help you understand your price range and increase the odds you’ll buy your car and drive it home the same day. At a minimum, it helps to at least use a prequalification tool to get a clearer estimate of what kind of financing you’re likely to get. This can help you save time by not even looking at cars that cost more than what you’ll potentially be approved for. Additionally, once you’ve found the car you want, you may not spend extra time waiting for financing approval.
If you have good credit, that will also go a long way in making the financing process go more smoothly. Applicants with good credit are more likely to sail quickly through the credit approval process, not become mired in denials, counteroffers, requests for cosigners and other questions.
Having your paperwork ready
Buying a car typically requires a bit of paperwork, including several personal documents from you. Having these items ready can help you finish your financing more quickly:
- Driver’s license
- Insurance information
- Pink slip or payoff information for any car(s) you’re trading in
- Down payment (typically in the form of a check)
- Qualifying documents for any special rebates (such as military or student discounts)
So, can you buy a car and take it home the same day? Technically, yes, but it may require some preparation before purchase day. For most buyers, a more reasonable strategy to save time when buying a car would be to clearly understand your vehicle needs, apply for financing before shopping, and have all paperwork ready to go when you head to the dealership.