Buying a car is a big step. Now that you've finished your driver's ed classes and have your permit or license, it's time to hit the road. But unless you really think through your purchase, you could end up with an expensive case of buyer's remorse. These pointers will help you understand what you should know about buying your first car.
1. Consider Your Lifestyle
Ask yourself what you will use your new car for. How often and how far will you be driving? How many people will ride with you? Does your area typically get lots of snow or frequent heatwaves?
All those things affect which vehicle is best for you. For instance, needing a reliable car to drive on muddy country roads and needing a compact car suitable for a city are two very different things!
2. Set a Realistic Budget
Then, you'll need to set a budget — and stick to it. If you're borrowing money to buy a car, check your credit. Is it good enough to get a low-interest loan from a bank? Then try to get pre-approved so you know exactly how much money you can spend on your new ride.
Remember, cars are expensive. You may get a great bargain at the dealership, but you'll still have other things to cover. Budget for license and registration, taxes, maintenance, fuel, and auto insurance — although you can save quite a bit on that last one when you take an online traffic school course with Driver's Ed.
3. Decide on Used or Brand New
Now that you know your budget, decide whether you'll buy a brand new or a used car. They each have their pros and cons.
Buying a used car is much more affordable than buying a new one. You can typically get good deals and lower auto insurance rates, too. However, you will have to do more research before making an offer. For example, checking the car's VIN is a good idea. It will tell you if the vehicle has been stolen, badly damaged in the past, or recalled by the manufacturer.
You still need to do your due diligence before buying a brand-new whip, but not as much. Auto dealerships give you a lot of assurances — but that comes at a price. Those cars are much more expensive, and it's easy to go over budget when you find one that you love.
4. Choose the Right Model for You
The next step is finding a model that's right for you. This is the fun part. We can't tell you what features you should look for and which add-ons to splurge on. It's all up to you, your lifestyle, your preferences, and your budget!
However, we can outline some aspects to consider when looking for a new car. Think of these as filters to narrow down your search:
Safety: This is especially important for new drivers. Look at crash-test results, safety equipment, and reviews from industry experts.
Type of vehicle: Do you want a sedan, an SUV, or an open-bed pick-up truck? And are you leaning more towards gas, electric, or hybrid? The options are (nearly) endless.
Fuel economy: Gas-guzzlers, although generally cheaper, are expensive in the long run, so keep that in mind.
Reliability: How well does the car you're interested in hold up after years of use? Customer reviews and expert insight can help you figure this out.
5. Handle the Final Paperwork
Finally, once you've signed on the dotted line and bought a new car, you should handle the final paperwork. That means registering the car in your name.
If you're buying a car from a dealership, you likely don't have to worry about this step. But if you've bought a used car, it's on you to get up to speed with your state's laws.
Rules change from state to state. Generally speaking, though, you should visit your local DMV to register a new vehicle. Fortunately, this Driver's Ed guide to DMVs makes this trip a lot less daunting.
Get on the Road Safely
Having a car that's all yours is freeing. You can go wherever you want, whenever you want. But it doesn't come without responsibilities. For starters, you need to make sure you drive safely and don't put anyone in danger. Your driving classes might have prepared you for that, but there's nothing like taking a defensive driving course with Driver's Ed to improve your skills. It might even lower your monthly insurance payments!