Skip to main content

Car buying today – How to prepare

minute read

    For decades, most people followed a simple formula when they were ready to purchase a new vehicle. Visit a dealership in person, negotiate a price, complete the purchase and drive the car off the lot.

    Today, there’s a myriad of car buying options available, and whether you’re a first-time or a veteran car buyer, the ever-evolving landscape of the auto industry can leave consumers with a lot of questions. Renée Horne, Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at Chase Auto, offers five tips on how to prepare for buying a car.

    1. Set your budget, and stick to it

    There are a variety of different expenses that come with getting a car — the purchase cost, insurance, car maintenance and fuel being a few of them. Knowing how much you can afford, especially if you plan to pay for it over time, is key to avoiding a car bill that stretches your finances. Chase has a variety of different budgeting tools and tips to help you save for your purchase.

    2. Look for the best car buying deals

    Like many other items, vehicles have a price cycle — the end of the month and end of the model or calendar years tend to be when you can find a better deal, as dealers may need to meet quotas or clear out inventory. New models generally hit lots in the fall, so instead of buying next year’s model in September, consider the current year model. Holidays are also a great time to buy a vehicle, as these occasions may offer opportunities for rebates and financing a car. No matter when you decide to buy, it’s a good idea to consider multiple vehicles and shop around at several dealerships to get the best price.

    3. Test drive the vehicle to make sure it fits your needs

    This is your time to see how the vehicle looks and feels, try out the interior systems and figure out if the vehicle fits your needs. Schedule test drive appointments to ensure the car you want is still available, ideally a few in the same day or week to keep your impressions fresh in your mind. It’s also helpful to simulate your daily driving conditions as much as possible, such as bringing any car seats or equipment you may have in your car daily. After your test drive, you can ask about the car’s warranty and fuel and car maintenance requirements, as well as the possibility of getting an extended test drive or bringing the car to your own mechanic for a second opinion.

    4. Determine whether you are financing a car or leasing

    There are benefits of both a lease and a loan. With a loan, there is no mileage limit and you are free to customize and change the car as you see fit. After completing your finance payments, you own it. Leases typically have lower upfront costs than loan payments, and at the end of the term you can return, purchase or trade the vehicle in. But keep in mind that most leases have a mileage limit, so it might not be the best option if you travel often.

    5. How to know if an electric vehicle is right for you

    With so many major manufacturers building electric vehicles (EVs), there are more options than ever before. However, cost, car maintenance, range and charging logistics are all key factors to consider. It typically costs less to charge your vehicle than to fill up a tank with gas. But just as gas prices vary, so do electricity costs — based on your location, your driving style and the size of your battery. And the cost of an EV itself may be higher than a traditional gas vehicle, although there may be options to help offset the cost like federal and local tax incentives.

    When it comes to car maintenance EVs typically require less maintenance than traditional cars. EV batteries tend to be covered by 8-10 year warranties (outlasting the amount of time most people own their cars) but EV tires degrade faster due to the weight of the battery. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the range of an EV with a fully charged battery could be between 110 to 300 miles, but that number depends on the make and model as well as other factors like weather, traffic conditions and driving style. And when it comes to charging infrastructure, some cities and states may have more charging stations than others. Make sure to plan your trip ahead of time and map your route.

    My advice to customers? Be open to the different options in the market. Do your research and discover all the resources available to help you understand what kind of car and whether financing a car will be best for you and your family.

    What to read next