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7 Steps for First-Time Car Buyers

Are you a first-time car buyer? Before heading to the dealership, check out these steps on how to best buy a car.

1. Determine What You Can Afford

You've made the decision to purchase a car; now it's time to figure out how much car you can afford. Realizing how the purchase of a vehicle will affect your overall budget is important. Immediate expenses will include the down payment, tax, title, registration and dealership documentation fee. You'll also want to account for ongoing expenses like auto insurance, maintenance and gas.

Once you've decided what's affordable, you should have a better idea of what kind of car you're in the market for. You may also be able to utilize a qualified co-signer to assist with your purchase. Check out UHCU's Auto Calculators to help you compare different options for your budget.

2. Secure UHCU Financing

If you're like most car buyers – first-time or otherwise – you won't be paying for your vehicle with cash, and that means you need a loan. A great first step in the financing process is to work with United Heritage to get pre-qualified.

Pre-qualification helps you negotiate more effectively and simplifies your experience at the dealership. If you have any questions about pre-qualification or are ready to start the pre-qualification process, visit our Auto Loans page or call 512.435.4444 to speak with a UHCU loan specialist.

Once you apply with UHCU, your loan specialist will help you understand your credit rating and how it impacts your purchase. Your loan specialist will also assist you with determining your estimated down payment, your monthly payment, the length of your loan and the interest rate.

Both the length of your loan and the interest rate will affect your overall cost. Shorter-term loans generally have lower interest rates and may save you money over the life of the loan. Longer terms make for lower monthly payments but will end up costing you more in interest.

3. Shop Around

Now that you've addressed the financial aspect of buying a car, it's time to start thinking seriously about what kind of car you'd like to get. Prioritize your wants and needs – while a convertible might be cool, is it going to be practical for you? How important are safety and reliability? What features could you not live without? Note vehicles you're interested in and use the internet to research them more thoroughly.

Next, test drive the cars you like. If you're buying a used car, a certified professional mechanic should inspect it. Once you've exercised due diligence, select your top choice as a well as a few alternate options.

4. Negotiate

While negotiating the price of a vehicle can add to an already intimidating first-time car purchase, doing so can ensure you end up with the best deal possible. Show up to the dealership prepared with your research and quotes. Negotiate one item at a time – often you'll want to focus on the purchase price – and be polite but stern. Keep emotions out of the equation and be prepared to walk away if necessary.

5. Protect Your Investment

Don't pay too much for the extras. United Heritage offers a full suite of protection products including vehicle service contracts, credit life, credit disability, unemployment insurance and guaranteed asset protection (GAP). These products are often less expensive when purchased directly through United Heritage.

6. Close the Deal

If you've made it to this point, congratulations – you're about to be a car owner! This is where your UHCU loan specialist's experience will come in handy. Your UHCU loan specialist works with hundreds of dealerships and private party sellers each month and has the knowledge to help you navigate the transaction with ease. He or she will work directly with the dealership's finance office to finalize the paperwork quickly.

Make sure you read over every part of the contract and ask questions before signing anything you don't understand. Your UHCU loan specialist has the expertise to assist with any questions or concerns at any point in the process.

7. Enjoy Your New Vehicle

When you drive off the lot in your new car, you can rest easy knowing you own a great first vehicle for a great price.

7 Steps for First-Time Car Buyers