Buying a car can be a very exciting experience or a rather unpleasant one. Good preparation can be the difference between walking away disappointed or driving away happy. After all, there are many ways that a car salesperson can get you to rush into a deal before you’re ready. Keep the following tips in mind and ensure that nobody takes advantage of you.

1. Plan Your Budget in Advance

Before you even open an app to look at vehicles, you need to plan your budget. Many people look at a car’s price, do some quick division in their head, and think they’ll be fine. That is not the correct way to go about it, though. Start off by finding the amount of money that you can afford to spend on this car each month without fail. You don’t want to count on overtime at work to pay off your vehicle. 

Take into account the overall vehicle price along with the amount you’re using for a down payment. Next, factor in dealer fees and registration costs as they apply to your situation. Also, account for the cost it will take for you to insure the vehicle. Is the price still reasonable? If so, then it’s on to the next step. 

2. Check Your Credit Score Before Shopping

Before you get an offer from the dealership, they’re going to check run your credit score. Not only is that going to trigger what is known as a “hard pull” and adversely affect your credit, but it will determine whether you can buy a car at all. 

There are numerous ways to check your credit to get an estimated score, but it’s usually best to request an actual credit score from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to prevent any surprises. Now, you should understand that many car dealerships will work with you. They want to sell you a car. However, if your score is low, then be prepared to put more money down upfront while also paying more money over the life of the car loan. It might be worth waiting to improve your credit score before you make a vehicle purchase. 

3. Do Your Research Beforehand

Laptop, Mac, Computer, Browser, Research

The internet has transformed the car-buying experience, giving the buyer more information to use when making a purchase. The only downside is that, despite being easy to find, you must gather the data on your own. 

First, check out the reviews about the dealership. Do they have a lot of people complaining about high prices, pushy salesmen, and shady practices? If so, move on to the next one; there’s always another lot that is looking to make an honest deal.

Secondly, look at data on the vehicles that you want to buy. Many dealership websites will list the price, VIN, Carfax, and Kelley Blue Book value for the cars that they’re trying to sell. In the worst-case scenario, you might have to use the data on the site to research the information that is not present. It might seem like a hassle, but performing due diligence could save you thousands of dollars. You always want to have a good idea of the vehicle’s value based on its year, mileage, and any incidents involving the vehicle. 

A smart practice is to make a list of the vehicles that you’d like to see for a specific lot and write down all the data that you’d need to make an informed decision. That way, you can visit a car dealership with a specific list of vehicles to view. Not only can this help save you time, but it will also prevent the dealers from trying to steer you towards the vehicles they would prefer to sell you. 

4. Do Not Buy the Same Day 

Many people become so excited at the thought of driving a new car that they’ll make a poor deal just to get the keys on that first day. As tempting as it might be, it’s a very good idea to do a test drive, get the dealership’s offer, and then sleep on it. 

Why would you leave the car there and potentially let someone else buy it that day? For one thing, the car-buying experience can leave you flustered and not in a good state of mind to process all the information being pushed your way. You should take some time to organize and read the deal before signing. Take the information home to contemplate the interest rate, price, and potential add-ons included in the offer. 

Another reason that you should come back another day is that it makes the dealer work harder to meet your needs.  Their job is to get you inside a vehicle from their dealership that earns them the best commission. Dealerships don’t have a glut of customers like a retail chain. That allows them to focus intently on a single customer, like you. After you walk away from the table and leave your information behind, you can bet they’re going to make contact. They know you’re going to buy a car, and they want it to be from them instead of a competitor. That gives you some leverage. The dealers might entice you with a better price or options that you would not have gotten if you bought the car right away. 

5. Settle in for a Long Wait

Waiting, Appointment, Schedule, Time

Buying a car is a very exciting experience. However, the process can be time-consuming on the day that you do want to make the purchase. As a rule of thumb, be prepared to wait three hours or more. After you test-drive multiple cars and models, find a car that has the options you want, and pick the color, you have to sit through the financing process. There is a lot of paperwork that goes into a vehicle purchase, and you have to read it all. 

In the best-case scenario, the dealership will be very slow and the financial offices will be filled with competent individuals. That’s not always the case, though. Bring a book or a well-charged phone. 


The car-buying process is riddled with pitfalls that can cost you a lot of time and money. It’s important that you do your best to walk into a dealership with as much knowledge as possible. Using the tools available through the internet and these tips, you should have no problem making your way through a car purchase.