I was driving to work one typical morning - typical, meaning, I decided to stop at Starbucks on my way. As I pulled off the freeway and headed to my local Starbs drive-thru (caffeine is essential) I started to notice something weird happening with my car.
Not only did my radio start turning on and off repeatedly on its own, all the lights on my dash turned on. Oh, and my gas pedal stopped working. Fortunately, I was off of the freeway by then, and on a downhill street. I willed my car forward with sheer positive vibes (and gravity) until I reached the end of the street. I found a safe place where I could pull over. To make a long-story short, I got my car towed to the shop and Ubered the rest of the way to work.
All is well that end's well! But, most importantly, this was the ultimate sign that it was time for me to trade in my beloved over-200,000-miles-driven car for something more reliable. As a 20-something, this was my first time buying a car. So, if you are also new to the buying-a-car game, here's what I learned from my "I know nothing about cars" experience!
Do Lots of Research
When buying a new car, be ready to take the time to do a lot of research. There are a lot of makes and models out there, and it's important to narrow down to the features that are most important to you. If there is a specific brand you know you want, that's a great place to start. You can also go by size, style, and year. Once I had a good idea of what kind of car I wanted, I did research to see other similar cars that would be available. It definitely helps to go out and test drive different options so that you get a good feel for what you want.
Know What You Want - and Don't Budge
Buying a car is no small purchase, so once you know what you want, don't make compromises. It's better to take some time waiting for the perfect vehicle than spend the money on something you aren't 100% happy with. When you know what car you want, it becomes easier to narrow down your search as well. You have a couple of options after this step. You can go straight to a dealer, find something online such as Craigslist, or using a car-buying app such as CarMax or Carvana.
I personally used Carvana, which made the experience that much easier because I didn't have to negotiate with any salesmen on the type of car I wanted. It was all virtual. I could refresh the app and check a variety of different online outlets until I finally found the car that I knew I would be satisfied with.
Find the Best Loan
If your a just-making-it-through twenty-something like me, it is very likely that you'll have to take out a loan to complete your car purchase. If you are young and don't have much credit history, this can be a tricky step. However, make sure you find the loan that works best for your situation. For example, the loan the dealership offered me was a much higher interest rate than the one I was able to later secure through my personal bank. Be sure to do the research to get a rate that works well for your situation.
Be Ready to Sign Lots of Paperwork
Know that buying a car isn't like buying anything small. It takes a lot of paperwork. Because I got a third-party loan as well, I spend a week straight playing phone tag between my bank and the car dealer. It was all worth it in the end, but I definitely did not know to anticipate the process being so long. It's not like the movies where you get to skrrrt out the lot, new keys in the ignition. If you are going into the dealership in person to purchase your car, be prepared to be there for the majority of the day!
Once you have decided your ideal car, located it exactly online, secured your financial situation, and signed the paperwork, you've got a new car! Remember, it's an important purchase, meaning it will take lots of time and patience to get it done right. But, in the end you will have an exciting purchase that hopefully will stay with you for years into the future!