What I Learned From Buying My First Car

I was fortunate enough to have hand-me-down cars until I turned 23. So, up until that point my only experience with cars was the massive list of repairs required to maintain an older vehicle. Let me just say I get buyers anxiety from a long grocery receipt so a 5 year loan commitment had me hyperventilating. God bless my mother because she had me negotiate the entire purchase of my car with her there solely for moral support. Here’s everything I can remember from purchasing my first car, what I can’t recall is most likely due to nerves so strong I slipped into another dimension.

Buying a low-mileage used car still feels like buying a brand new car.

The first dealerships I went to you best believe I walked right up to the brand new mid-sized SUVs with all the options and took those for a spin. Then the sales person brings you to their cube and presents you with the price sheets. I remember being like “Oh, okay. So this is really what is costs to drive a brand new car off the lot.” Suddenly, all the online shopping you did seems wildly unrealistic for the budget you had planned. I came up almost $100 more a month just to get me in the realm of the cars I wanted to buy. The point I am trying to make here is buying a used car can still be new and special to you AND you can get more options on the car if you’re willing to look past a few miles on it.

Be prepared to leave the dealership and come back at a later date.

I am not a window shopper. I shop to buy so this part of the process tested my patience. You may think you found THE car for you in the first dealership that you visit but it is rare that you’ll be ready to sit down and bust your way through the negotiations in one fell swoop. If you do, I commend you for that. You are stronger than I am. We made three different stops at the dealership I eventually bought my car it. Waiting helps them take you more seriously and gives you time to truly decide if the investment is going to be worth it.

Have a monthly payment limit in mind before entering negotiations.

Odds are you aren’t going to lay down hard cash in full to buy your next car. Make sure you take the time to decide what your per month budget is for a car payment. This was toughest for me to swallow. I didn’t have a lot of money to put down towards my new car so my monthly payments took an up tick as a result. There are plenty of online calculators out there to figure out how much your monthly payment would be for an auto loan.

Let’s talk negotiations.

First of all, you aren’t there to be friends with them and you don’t need them to like you. Wanting to be liked is a big part of my nature, as I think it is for many of us. The first dealership I walked in my mom said I was so smiley that I had a sign on my head that said “please take all my money.” I think that’s when she knew I had to do the negotiating myself. Having a monthly figure in mind takes most, if not all, the guess work out of negotiating. If you are firm on your monthly payment they will either be able to get you there or they won’t and you just have to be tough enough to walk away. This is also when buying used is doubly beneficial. Dealerships are 100% more flexible with their pricing on a used car. There is a limit they hit on new cars where they really can’t go any lower without losing money.

I could keep going on and on about what I learned and still need to learn from buying a car but these were the most memorable! Comment down below if you have any questions or if I missed any great tips for buying a car!


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