The Car Buyer’s Checklist: What You’ll Need to Buy a Car
Many people depend on family members to guide them through the rite of passage of buying their first car. Other folks are lucky enough to have that first car given to them by generous parents or grandparents. But what if you don’t have others guiding you through the process, and you are heading to the dealership on your own? To help you navigate through the car buying process, and to ensure you don’t forget any essential items, follow the steps outlined below.
Before You Visit a Dealership
- Research local dealers: You will usually be better off buying locally, as it’s more convenient if you have warranty issues or want to take advantage of dealer specials like free oil changes.
- Check for the manufacturer's’ rebates or discounts: You could save hundreds just by knowing when to buy.
- Check your own credit. You can use the official website for up to three, free annual credit reports, so you know how solid your credit line is ahead of the deal.
- Talk to your auto insurance agent: Find out what a particular model will cost you to insure to avoid unpleasant surprises like the Dodge GT Viper ($4,048 annual average insurance cost). Sites like NerdWallet can help.
Separate the Three TransactionsBefore visiting the dealer, meet with your bank or credit union to get pre-approved for an auto loan. Many dealers have attractive finance programs with their own banks, too. By getting pre-approved, you can keep the financing separate from the purchase. Most savvy auto buyers separate the three transactions:
- Selling the old car
- Financing the new car
- Buying the new car
Selling the Old Car?If you are selling your old car, you must bring the dealer your title and a few other items:
- Current registration
- Owner’s manual
- All keys (including valet keys, ones you had made at a locksmith and aftermarket copies)