It is hard searching for a car. There are so many things to consider, where does one even start? Similar to my blog post on How To Confidently Purchase A Car, I want to share some knowledge on how to search for a car before you initially buy it! Your Ultimate Car Search Guide has an attached checklist that I will be referring to. Download it, print it out, and jot down some information as we go along. Then bring it with you when you talk business with the salesperson!
The best way to prepare yourself when searching for a new car is by, well, searching! Doing some research online is a great way to organize yourself before approaching a dealership or private seller. So open that laptop, grab your checklist, and let’s get to work.
The first task on your checklist, and what I want you to determine, is whether you will buy or lease a vehicle.
Car Search 101
Car Search Rule #1: Buy or Lease?
There are ups and downs to buying or leasing a car. Leasing a car means you pay a monthly fee to a dealership on a lease, and have to return the car after “x” amount of years. Buying a car is, obviously, purchasing a vehicle straight from a dealership or private seller, in which case you own 100% of the car. When buying a car, you need to determine whether you want a new car, used car, or certified pre-owned car. Do some research on different types of purchases, and take a look at my personal pro/con list of buying versus leasing a vehicle. Once you’ve determined which is best for you, stick to your answer as we continue. (Circle either buy or lease on your worksheet)
Car Search Rule #2: What Type Of Car Do You Want?
Now we start the fun research and list which cars you are interested in! Follow along on the worksheet and write down your top 5 picks that come to mind. Type them into the computer and make sure they are practical to your everyday lifestyle. Don’t know where to start? Googling “the most popular cars today” might help.
You can also write down whether this next car is for business, personal/family use, or adventure. (circle the correct use on the worksheet)
Car Search Rule #3: Car Capability
I’m talking car goodies. What do you intend to get out of your car? How can you make this next car the most enjoyable one yet? There are so many great options to enhance car performance these days; every car is like driving a Rolls Royce. Follow along (and circle the best choice) with the attached worksheet.
What Size Vehicle: Think about how many people you will be driving.
Engine Type: Determine whether you want a gas engine, diesel engine, or electric engine.
Wheel Drive: By wheel drive, I mainly mean where do you live/drive? You need to calculate your driving conditions because that is the difference between an all-wheel drive car vs. front-wheel drive vehicle.
Eco-Friendly: Is your main concern the environment or car performance? You can find a car that works both angels, but you need to specify that when you talk to the seller. If you want more information on fuel efficient cars, check out my blog!
Extras: All the goodies added on to the car. Circle all the extras you want in your car. If you think of more, make sure to jot them down on the same page, so you don’t forget them when discussing extras with the seller.
Car Search Rule #4: Read Online Car Reviews
Once you’ve finished filling in the section from above, read some online car reviews on your favorite vehicle. Website’s like Kelley Blue Book and Angie’s List are great tools to use when reading reviews. I take reviews pretty seriously because people who take the time to write something down and voice an opinion on a car, usually have had prior driving experience. I average the positive and negative reviews of a car and determine which car has the most positive reviews. I would recommend doing this as well, and then write down the top three cars that passed the test. (see worksheet)
Car Search Rule #5: Search Dealerships And Read Reviews
Similar to what you just did, but now with dealerships/private sellers. Use websites like autotrader.com or carmax.com to find dealerships or private sellers in your area. Make sure to read reviews of each company. Again, make a list of your top three players because the next step is contacting them! And don’t forget to pay close attention to the location. Sometimes people say they are nearby but are still 3+ hours away.
Car Search Rule #6: Contact And Make Appointments
After you have compiled a list of great cars and companies to look at, call everyone and make appointments to visit the car. Without appointments, you won’t be guaranteed a test drive and or talking to a sales rep. Plus, a lot of private sellers don’t show their car unless they are contacted. On the “contacts” section of my worksheet, write down all the dealers you want to contact, and then the dates you are going to visit them. Make sure to get their name, company, location, phone, and email.
Car Search Rule #7: Test Drive
Now for the fun stuff! Test drives are great in determining the feel of the vehicle. Of course, you want to look over the car before driving it to make sure it looks like it did in the picture. The owner will probably drive with you, but make sure they don’t take you on a pre-determined route. Let them know you want to take the car on roads similar to what you normally drive. Find a highway, or take it through the city. Maybe some back roads to test steering. You should spend about 15-30 minutes on the test drive. This is a big purchase, and you need to make sure you love everything about your next vehicle!
Car Search Rule #8: Scale Down Options
The final step in your car search. Don’t buy the car after your test drive. Let them know you are searching around and will give them an answer within the next 48 hours. This will not only encourage the seller to add a bonus (because you said “searching around”), but it will give you time to sleep on everything you’ve just worked on. And to go over my checklist once again! Ask friends and family about your potential purchase. Jot down some more notes. Make sure you feel good about this purchase, and the car makes you excited about driving.
If you feel happy with your decision, reread my blog How To Confidently Purchase A Car and head on over to that dealership. You are on your way to a new vehicle; get excited!