Think about this; before you drop a few hundred dollars on a brand-new TV, what do you do before going to the shops?
Chances are you go online, scouting for deals - read a few reviews, compare models and prices and generally arrive at the shop armed with an array of information before you're even near the brightest new OLED unit.
Buying a car is no different. And since it's one of the most significant purchases you will probably make, it pays to make sure you're as ready as you can be.
Here's a few healthy pointers.
In an age where almost any piece of information is available to you via a device in your pocket, you're able to find out as much as you can about your next purchase from your couch.
Gone are the days of kicking multiple tyres.
Whether you're uncertain about what you want or have your heart set on a particular model, do as much research as you can. It's not for show at the negotiating table, but to prove to yourself you're absolutely buying the right car.
As you're here at CarAdvice, you are already in the best place to do the research. We have all the information on the car you're after and have reviews dating back to 2006. And we welcome you to 'Ask CarAdvice' a question if you have specific needs. We are here to help you find the right car for you.
Want to know whether the new Nissan can accommodate five people and luggage comfortably? Read and watch some reviews. Is the sound of the new Mustang important to you? Scour the net for videos. Find out the extras you need and want and go in ready with that information to grab yourself best deal.
Look into potential deals and break down the costs so you can use the information to negotiate when it comes time.
2) Book a test drive
Here's a big thing: Ask to take a car for 24 hours if you can. Especially if it's a new car purchase and you are putting down a lot of money. It never hurts to ask and you'll know exactly if it's the right car for you.
Never just settle on a supervised lap of the block – make sure you take the car yourself and test it in real life situations for its intended purpose. Read about our test drive tips here.
Book ahead and save your time and the dealers'. Ask what's needed for a test drive – it's usually licence details and a signed waiver – and make sure you've got everything you need. Plus, a few days' notice for the dealer won't hurt.
3) Plan your route, take it home if you can
Traffic will ruin the trip in even the nicest cars in the world. So find out where the dealer is and look for quiet roads nearby that let you get acquainted with the car.
Find some roads similar to the types you'll be using regularly and a few that offer different driving experiences. And ask the dealer for some tips. They're eager to sell you a car so they'll know a few secrets.
Best of all, if you can, take the car home, if only so you know it fits well in your garage or car port. You don't want to learn about this the hard way.
4) Don't be afraid to walk away
This isn't a negotiating technique. Those will come later.
Just be ready to know even if you've found the car of your dreams on paper, if you can't see safely out the rear-window, for instance, there's no point on following through with the purchase.
It's called a test for a reason, and if it doesn't work out, there's no shame in going back to square one and starting your work all over.
There are plenty of cars on the market and there's probably one that's just right for you. Conversely, that also means there's many that aren't.
5) Have your finance ready
How you pay for it is none of our business. But make sure you've ticked all the right boxes before you begin.
It would be a shame to commit to something you can't afford or miss a good deal because you're waiting for a loan to be approved. Do this early and have the peace of mind.
6) Be prepared to negotiate
It's not a competition and there's no need to be hard-nosed these days. But look for ways to make the deal as best you can for yourself.
Ask about options, on-roads, servicing deals and anything where there's a cost. A few little discounts or no-cost add-ons can add up to save you big dollars.
7) Enjoy the process
Cars are transport, but they're also fun.
Take the chance to learn about what's available and to improve your own skills and knowledge while you're at it.
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