Buying a new car is a big step, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting one. Here’s how to research, locate, price and negotiate to buy your new car. Mobile technology makes these steps easier than ever, and it is now entirely possible to shop for a new car while you’re in line at the supermarket or waiting to pick up your kids.

These eight steps could save you thousands of dollars on a new car. They’ll also make the process quicker and stress-free. Let’s begin.

Step 1: Research Vehicles and Pick the Features You Want

Step 2: Get Pre-Approved for a Car Loan

A pre-approved car loan starts you on the right foot. You get an idea of how much you can afford and you’ll have an interest rate that you can then compare to the dealership’s financing, which might actually have the lowest annual percentage rate. Look for a loan application on the mobile web pages of your bank, credit union or a third-party lender. It’s a good idea to do your own research on which lender works best for you.

To begin the loan-approval process, have at hand your employer and salary information and balances of other debt you may have. Make sure you will be ready to shop within about two weeks of seeking pre-approval. This will reduce the number of “hard” inquiries to your credit history.


Step 3: Plan your Trade-In Strategy
You can skip this step if you don’t have a trade in. If you do, keep reading.

When you’re done appraising, you’ll see three figures. The trade-in value is what the dealer may offer you — that’s a figure to keep in mind when you’re at the dealership. The private-party value is what you might expect to get if you sell the car yourself. Dealer retail is a little different: It is what you might expect to pay for the car if you were to buy it at a dealership.


Step 4: Locate and Test-Drive the Car
By now, you’ve settled on a few car candidates. You should see them in person before making a decision.This is a better way to shop than configuring a car at the automaker’s website and hoping you will find one with that set of options in the real world.

If you found the vehicle on site, call the dealership’s internet sales department to request more information. In either case, keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:

  • Do verify that the car you want is still in stock. It might have been sold recently, and online inventories can take a while to catch up.
  • Do ask the salesperson if there are any dealer-installed options. Many new vehicles are sold with add-ons such as nitrogen in the tires, all-weather floor mats or theft protection packages. These can easily add a thousand dollars to the sale price.
  • Don’t just show up at the dealer on a busy weekend or late at night. Waits may be long and you may not get the salesperson’s full attention.
  • Do schedule an appointment for a test-drive. Early in the week and in the morning are good times. Having an appointment means the car will be waiting for you when you arrive.
  • Don’t just drive around the block. Take the time to see how you and your family fit in the car and see how it handles on a variety of roads.
  • Do ask yourself the following questions: Are the controls easy to use? Is there enough cargo space? Will a child seat fit? (Bring it with you and test it.)
  • Don’t feel obligated to buy the car the same day. Feel free to take a night to think it over.

Step 5: Get a Sale Price and Ask About Extended Warranties
Once you have a target car, it’s time to focus on getting a price. We recommend using one of these two ways to get a price quote on a car:

Step 6: Review the Deal and Check for Dealer Financing
Now that you have a price quote for the car, your big question is probably whether it’s competitive.

Step 7: Close the Deal
If the price, financing and fees look right, it’s time to say yes to the deal. From here, you can proceed in one of two ways: buy at the dealership or have the car and paperwork delivered to your home.

Step 8: Take Delivery
Whether you take delivery of your car at the dealership or at your home, it should be clean. The gas tank should be full. Give the car a final walkaround, checking for any dents or scratches that might have occurred during transport.