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How to Buy a Car: Step One

Tips for buying a car

The Car People at Edmunds.com brought me to the Santa Monica headquarters and taught me how to properly test drive cars behind-the-wheel and negotiate deals when buying a ;car. I used this information during our recent car buying purchase and I’ve never had a better experience. Thank you, Edmunds. You’re kinda sorta amazing. 

How to Buy a Car: Step One

Part 1: What to know before you go


Buying a car has a bad rap. It can be stressful, but it really doesn’t have to be. Like finding the perfect house, car buying should be fun and exciting. This is a huge financial investment and you should not only be taking home a car you love, but you shouldn’t be second guessing the car deal or experiencing buyer’s remorse whatsoever.


Those who recognize that the car buying process begins even before you step on the lot, are the ones that benefit from the best deals. There is nothing wrong with impulse buying or instant gratification, but you can still do that and get a fantastic deal on a car. During the next few days, I’m going to take you through the car buying process as we purchase our new car.


Read: Step Two – What Car Dealers Don’t Want You to Know


Utilize social media for information, rebates, car reviews and dealer incentives. There are plenty of car buying websites; however I highly recommend downloading the Edmunds app on your smartphone and familiarize yourself with it. Everything I ever need to know about car buying, I learned from Edmunds.com. Their reviews are trust because they are moderated and vetted weekly to weed out any planted posts. This is something review sites like Yelp can’t say.


Buying a car

What to know before you go car shopping


1. I recommend starting your car shopping online, not face-to-face. Once you’ve decided on a few make and models, contact the Internet Sales Manager online and request a test drive appointment. His/Her sales goals are based on volume and not  dollar sales which will be in the best interest of your check book. The Internet Manager also has authorization to negotiate without getting a Finance Director involved which typically dealers cannot approve on their own. I’ve had a great car buying experience in the past with Costco.com. Costco will connect you directly with an Internet Service Manger at your local car dealer.


2. Make a car buying checklist. What is your dream car? What features must this car have? Include everything on this list. Be precise. This investment is about to cost you tens of thousands of dollars, so you don’t want something “just to get you there.” Be smart about car buying. What are your deal breakers? My next car has to have: Navigation, heated leather seats, armrest, backseat thermostats and a moonroof. Obvs, there are more, but these are some options I want to make sure are included.


At first, I actually I thought I was nuts for doing this, but you know what? I came across giving a strong message that I was decisive, knew exactly what I wanted and I was not about to settle. That’s right, for this amount of money I wasn’t about to utter, “I’ll get used to…” about anything.


3. Request the car dealer deliver the car to your home or office for the test drive. Yes, they can and will make this happen. Dealership are designed to draw people in, leaving buyers overwhelmed and confused. Having a car delivered for a test drive will not only eliminate unwanted stress, but allow you to experience the car in your surroundings – not theirs.


4. Drive it like you own it. The test drive part is intuitive, be sure to mirror your driving habits and find your comfort zone. Crank the A/C, fiddle with the radio, get cozy in that seat. Open and close the sunroof yourself. Make sure to drive with it open.  AC all the way up. Drive with it on. Then drive with it off to hear the overall sound of the car and tires. Don’t let the test drive dealer lower it or blast the radio. Remember, dealers are trained to camouflage the flaws. You want to see how loud it will be while driving and while holding a conversation.


5. Ask if you can arrange “24-hour test drives.” GM did this for awhile and I know other manufacturers and dealers can provide this courtesy as well. If this service is unavailable, I highly suggest renting one for a few days and “live” with the car as long as possible to see if this is the one.


6. Dare to compare. Thinking about two different vehicle models? Make sure to drive competing cars back-to-back with the least amount of time possible between the two. This is another reason I recommend calling ahead of time to make a test drive appointment. The dealer will have both cars side by side waiting for you ready to test drive. Trust me, this is so important when buying a car.


7.  Make a list and include everything you need to ask about the car. You will always have time to discuss the financial part later. Right now keep it to specific questions about the car itself. Chances are you will have a thousand questions after the test drive, make sure to write your thoughts down so you have answers when you go home.


8. Know your credit: Each dealership and manufacturer have different lending policies. Know all three of your credit scores before you go. Also, if you can secure lending with a financial institution prior to visiting the dealership, you will most likely get the best rates.


9. Do not test drive on the weekends. You’re welcome.


10. Do not tell them about your trade-in. I repeat: DO NOT. It will benefit you more to include this information AFTER you’ve negotiated a price you are ready to pull the trigger on.


Bring a notebook and don’t be afraid to jot down notes as you go along. And if at any time you want piece of mind or tips on what to do, just tweet or call Edmunds.com while car shopping – they are even there on the weekend. Tomorrow, I’ll teach you everything you ever needed to know about test driving a car. 


Edmunds.com | Twitter | Facebook | (855) 782-4711 or Text ED411

Photo credits: Nicole Standley

This post was not sponsored. Just a “thank you” note to my friends at Edmunds.com. On occasion, contributors of The JetSet Family receive products, compensation and/or services gratis or at discounted rates. This practice does not hinder the influencer’s point of view. All descriptions are factual and accurately reflect the overall experience. This post may contain affiliate links.

Review overview
  • Jen A September 8, 2014

    Great information, we’ll probably be looking for a new car in the next year as my oldest daughter is getting her license in a few months. We’ll be taking her with us so she can learn the steps!

  • Coralie September 8, 2014

    These are great tips. I love the idea of having them bring the car to you. We just bought a new car about 2 months ago and it is very true – they really do try and pressure you. We actually had one dealership park behind our car so we couldn’t get out. I had fun yelling at them and then we left. Will NOT go back there again and I tell everyone to stay away. It can be crazy. If you don’t feel comfortable – don’t stay. You will know when it is right – just like we did.

  • Travel Blogger September 8, 2014

    This was such a comprehensive post. I bookmarked this for future reference! We’re in the car buying market in the next 6 months. 🙂

  • valmg @ Mom Knows It All September 8, 2014

    I agree with a number of your points, particularly knowing your credit and driving it like you own it. Regarding tradeins they aren’t worth trading in in my opinion and experience, they’ll do substantially better in private sale.

  • Dee @ Cocktails with Mom September 8, 2014

    These are great tips and would have been useful when I purchased my first car years ago.

  • mel September 8, 2014

    What great tips! I wish I read this post before we bought our car!!! Thanks!

  • Kim September 9, 2014

    The last couple of times we bought a car we have bought thru this one friend. I am assuming we get good deals….my husband says so and we have enjoying them all. These are very good tips, and ones people need to know!! We do ask questions even though he is our friend…maybe too many.

  • Amanda K September 9, 2014

    Great tips! hubby is in the market for a new car. I never knew not to test drive on the weekends! Thank you

  • Mistee Dawn September 9, 2014

    Great tips. I am not currently on the lookout for a new car. But I will keep these in mind when I am.

  • Patty September 9, 2014

    Great tips. I think the best one is to not be afraid to walk away. No one is going to force you to buy a car!

  • Raijean September 10, 2014

    Great tips, it’s so important to be aware.

  • Kelli @ Hungry Hobby July 9, 2016

    These are amazing tips!

  • Mohit Verma November 7, 2017

    Thanks for sharing such valuable tips 🙂

  • The Service Centre November 8, 2021

    Awesome tips that everyone can follow through it.


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