So you’re ready to buy your first new or used car and head out on the open road. But before you hit the highway in your new ride, it’s important to figure out what you’re looking for, what you can afford and how you’re going to pay for it. Here are the steps to follow if you’re a first-time car buyer. 

1. Determine your needs

Buying a car is a big deal, but with a little forethought, it doesn’t have to be a stressful decision. Before you start shopping around, take the time to figure out what kind of vehicle will be right for your lifestyle. What will you use your car for? Do you need a vehicle to get you through your daily work commute, or just something to run errands with? Also, consider how many passengers you’ll need to fit inside the vehicle on a regular basis. You won’t want a two-seater if you have kids or a group of friends to cart around. Drivers who like to take road trips or go biking or camping will also want to find a vehicle that features tons of storage space. 

2. Research, research, research

Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to explore your options. This is especially important for first-time car buyers because there are many variables to consider, and no one wants to bring more questions than answers with them to the dealership. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to research your vehicle options in today’s digital world.

You’ll first need to decide whether to purchase or lease a vehicle. A car lease is essentially a long-term rental that offers purchase options at the end of a set term. Many drivers are drawn to leasing because it allows for some flexibility to upgrade every few years, but there are limits imposed on the use of the vehicle. Purchasing a car outright (usually with the help of financing) will ensure the car is all yours. You can use this lease versus purchase calculator to determine whether leasing is right for you.

Once you’ve decided whether to purchase or lease your vehicle and have an idea of what kind of car you’re shopping for, there’s still more to think about. From gap insurance to Carfax®, there are many tools out there to ensure you find high-quality, reliable and stylish means of getting you where you need to go. The InTouch Credit Union buyer’s guide can help you find resources that will make buying a car as stress-free as possible.

3. Secure financing

It’s a smart move to get financing for your new (or new-to-you) vehicle before you even pay a visit to a car lot or dealership. Not only will you likely have secured a lower rate than a dealership could offer you, but you’ll also have the upper hand in negotiations with the dealer. 

When you’re exploring financing options, you’ll want to know how much your monthly car payment will be. This number is determined by many factors, including average automotive interest rates, loan terms, your down payment and more. Using a monthly  car payment calculator will help determine which scenarios make the most financial sense for you.

You'll also want to get details about interest rates, which will depend on your credit score, your lender and the terms of your car loan. Working with a professional, like any one of the experts at InTouch Credit Union, will help you determine what kind of rate you can get, while also providing answers to your tough financial questions. 

It’s always a good idea to get more than one quote when you’re securing a car loan from a bank or credit union. Compare the different terms and see which will save you the most money. InTouch Credit Union offers competitive rates and terms and many useful calculators. Once you're done exploring your options, your lender will set you up with a loan that will make your monthly car payment affordable. 

That’s it! Now you’re ready to find your dream car, negotiate the best price and see the world from the driver’s seat!