What to Do When Buying a Car

I have been saving towards a new car for a while now and it recently dawned on me that my preparation efforts are only directed towards finances, so I started researching on what other things I need to do when buying a car. In this article, I’m going to share some of the nuggets that I have picked in the process.  

Except for a select few, a car is the second most prized possession after a house. This necessitates ample preparation before making the purchase. The choices you make while buying a car may help you to use it optimally and enjoy it or make your driving life miserable.

When buying a car, you need to decide on a dealer, this helps you to get essential advice during and after buying. You also need to decide on the model and other specifications such as the sitting capacity, its main purpose, and fuel consumption. Decide how much you want to spend and purpose to shop within limits. There are also miscellaneous costs; these include fees, insurance, inspection, and documentation.

I presume the car you are buying is not merely a transport system; it’s more than that – a treasured possession. Before buying the car, here are a few things that you need to do.

1.     Identify a dealer

When you know the car you want, it becomes easier to settle on a dealer because he can act as your consultant. A good dealer should be registered, they also need to have a physical address – this separates genuine dealers from unscrupulous ones. Conduct a background check for the dealer you decide on. You can check their reviews online but it is safer to get a referral from friends or a trusted institution like a bank or insurance company. We recommend you choose a dealer who not only sells cars but services them and offers a warranty. Once you decide on a particular dealer, you can visit or call for further details. A good dealer will help you make better decisions on funding, the car model, and maintenance.

2.     Decide on which car to take

As mentioned above, if you get a good dealer, they will guide you into choosing the model, the capacity, engine size, internal accessories, and other details. Although your budget may limit your choices, it’s good to remember a car is a long term investment and be open to available options.

One way of getting a good bargain is buying a second-hand car. Since most upper-class users don’t keep their cars for long, dealers get access to those cars affordably factoring in depreciation. Most of these cars are in good condition and give you more room to negotiate favorably.

3.     Source for finances

You have now decided on the car you want and if you are like me, you already have some money set aside through savings. If not, you either have someone funding you, or you are intending to borrow. The highest percentage of car buyers uses automobile loans. Statistics show that in the U.S, nearly 567 billion was outstanding in automobile loans towards the end of 2017. Auto loans are a convenient way of getting a car although you pay more due to interest and processing charges. If you have settled on borrowing, a good dealer should connect you to a funding institution. In some instances, the dealers themselves have a lending scheme and allow you to pay a deposit and pay the balance in installments. Note that even though you will go home with the car, it will be the security for the loan.

4.     Test drive

You have your chosen car, and the finances are ready, you are one step away to take your car home. You probably trust your dealer 110% at this point but you still need to test drive. Test how comfortable the car feels in motion and if it feels spacious enough for you and your family. Take your time in this final stage because it determines the level of comfort you enjoy for years. Some of the characteristics you need to check are simple accessories like buttons; some car’s buttons may be too small for your hands. Test the signaling, lighting, wipers, and door handles.

Check if your mirror-view is clear and comfortable, you need a linear view of the gauges on the dashboard. You also need to listen to the engine while the car is in motion.

Mistakes to avoid when buying a car

  1. Failing to test drive, there are issues you may not notice until you get on the wheel. Always do a test drive before taking the car home. If possible, be accompanied by a third party so that you get a second opinion.
  2. Avoiding paperwork, closing a car deal using a verbal agreement is no longer a viable option even when dealing with friends. This is too great a risk to take.
  3. Settling on a dealer based on trust only. Ensure you have facts at hand on why you want to trade with that specific dealer. Take time to do a background check.
  4. Negotiating on the basis of loan installments, even if the car is on loan, haggling shouldn’t be dependent on the installment amount. Base it on factors like mileage, year of manufacture, previous use, and the prevailing prices – you can check this on eBay before engaging the dealer.

Final Word

You will hardly get a single article explaining all you need to do when buying a car. Although we have outlined the basics here, you need to do more research. Find out the finer details on the different car models that you are eyeing, get armed with options for finances, insurance, servicing, and other mechanical details. In brief, research more than you would if you were just feeding your curiosity.

All this information will come in handy when you are finalizing the transaction. If you have researched and you still feel uncertain, it helps to get a mechanic’s advice. Have him inspect the car and give you a go-ahead. One last thing, research on the dealer too, it helps a lot to do a background search regardless of how famous they may be.


Am a graduate sociologist and a regular contributor to national publications such as the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Journal of Applied Social Science and the Annual Review of Sociology.

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