Young Professionals Guide to Buying a Car

May 21, 2015

As a young professional in Connecticut, you probably have a car, or want a car in order to get around. If you're planning to buy a car for the first time, or planning to upgrade and buy a new car, the process might be a little confusing. Members of HYPE's Personal & Professional Development team wrote this post in order to help clear any confusion, and to help walk you through the process!

When you're shopping for a car, you first need to decide if you're going to buy a new car, or a used car. For this blog, we're going to assume that you've decided to go for the new car experience. Who doesn't love that new car smell?

Step 1: Know the Market
Before you walk into a dealership, you need to do your homework to understand the basic information about the market.

Incentives - Go to the manufacturer's website and research available incentives. Every manufacturer lists their current offers so you can find that information right from your cell phone. Some dealers also offer new graduate discounts and may offer corporate discounts. Be aware the the most popular models may not have any incentives.

Timing
- You will get a better deal on a 2015 car once the 2016 model is released, which is traditionally in late fall. You'll get an even better deal if the model has a major style change, so do some research on that!

Pricing
- How much should you expect to pay? Check out websites and do some comparisons. TRUECar, Kelly Blue Book, CARFAX, and Edmunds.com are all good references.

Trade in Value
- If you're trading in another vehicle, find out its value before you go. You can use Kelly Blue Book to learn the value of your car.

Step 2: Know Your Credit
You may need or want to finance your car purchase. If that's the case, then you'll need to know your credit score and history. It will be a factor in determining how much car you can afford. With a higher score (700+), you'll be offered a lower rate, which will translate into a lower monthly payment and significant savings. Use the credit website recommended on USA.gov, or find your own website like Credit Karma or WalletHub.

If your credit score is below 700, don't worry! There are steps you can take to improve your score. Here are seven simple ways you can improve your credit score.

Step 3: Financing Decision (Leasing v. Owning)
Armed with knowledge about the market and your own credit score, you'll need to decide whether to buy or lease your new vehicle. If you own a business, leasing is better than buying from a tax standpoint.  Businesses can deduct 100% of a lease payment, but can only deduct the interest component of any monthly payment as well as the associated depreciation if the vehicle is purchased.

Doing the math is only part of the equation. You also have to know how many miles you intend to put on the car and whether you plan to keep the car at the end of the lease. Leases have restrictions on the number of miles you can drive, and if you underestimate, the impact at the end of the lease could be costly.

Step 4: Negotiating
Once you know the market, the going rate for your car, your own credit score and if you want to lease or buy, it's time to start negotiating! Use your research, know what you want, and leave the emotion at the door. Buying a car is a business decision, and once you sit behind the wheel it's easy to get swept away in the moment. Make sure you stay focused on what will be the best decision for you.

No matter how you finance the car, make sure you settle on a purchase price first. If you're leasing, the lease factor is established by the financing company and there is less room for negotiation. Focus on the purchase price and don't let other factors such as rebates, trade-ins or monthly payments distract you from the main objective. While they are all important, introducing them into the negotiation too soon could give the dealer an advantage at your expense.

Make sure your expectations are in line with your research. Don't be afraid to megotiate in order to get a price that is close to what you found in your research. Finally, know what's important to you. If you "lose" on a small point, but you get a great car for a great price, don't risk the overall deal on a minor point.

You'll love the feeling of driving off the lot with your new car that you know you can afford! Do you have any tips from your own car buying experience that you'd like to share? Feel free to make a comment!

HYPE's Personal & Professional Development Committee works to write blog posts that young professionals would be interested in. Thank you to Jackie, Stephen, Tyra, Chris, Jess and Abhi who worked on this post. If you have any ideas for future blog posts, let us know!

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