The “Buying a Car” Checklist

Oct 7, 2020 9:19:53 AM

Thinking about buying a car? You’re certainly not alone. Living amidst the pandemic, many people are now considering a new car. Owning a car means the ability to enjoy a road trip even as international travel remains largely on hiatus; and, having a car can help to avoid crowded public transportation.

While the experience of owning a car is fantastic, the experience of buying a car can be stressful. There are many factors to consider, including what car is right for you, how to address the various financing and insurance options, and how to make sure the car dealership respects your budget and needs.

Before you head out to start your search for a new car, here are a few checklist items to keep in mind:

Look Into Your Financing Options

It’s possible to pay for your new car in full up front, but most people choose to take out a loan and finance their vehicle over time. It’s a good idea to check on your financing options before setting a budget, because your budget will depend on how much you have saved and the loan amount and interest rate you qualify for.

You can speak with your bank or credit union about what loans are available and how you can be pre-approved for a car loan, before you start shopping. You’ll want a loan that can offer good value and straightforward terms. HUECU, for example, has a refreshingly simple process with no application fees or pre-payment penalties. If you purchase your loan with financing through the dealership, you can refinance with HUECU at a later point.

Set a Budget

As mentioned, your budget will likely be based on the amount and rate of your loan – but that doesn’t mean you should automatically choose a vehicle that costs the maximum amount available. Many car dealerships may offer you financing, even at extremely high rates. Consider not only how much you can afford in monthly payments, but also how much you will pay in interest over the life of the loan.

It’s also important to look at the other costs associated with owning a car, such as tax, title and registration fee. Monthly expenses such as gas, insurance and the potential cost of repairs should also play a role in how you set your car-buying budget. If you’re looking to trade in an older vehicle, do some reading on how much you can expect to get for this car, which may influence how much you can spend on a new one.

Do Your Research

With a world of information at your fingertips, there’s no need to enter a car dealership uninformed. Check out reputable sites such as to look at how various new and used models perform and any issues to watch out for. You should also be aware of the general landscape of car prices; websites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds can help you to understand more about this.

Beyond researching online, it’s also useful to speak with friends and family. Ask what cars they’re driving, what they like and don’t like, and what car makes they’ve found to be good, lasting value. Your social circle may also be able to connect you to a reliable dealership in your area.

Take Your Time

Don’t be pressured into making a spur-of-the-moment decision about your car. This is a major purchase. Getting the right car will have a big impact on your finances and your day-to-day life – so take your time. Do research, test drive vehicles, and compare all the pros and cons.

It’s a good idea to take a test drive checklist when you visit dealerships, so you know what to look for and have a record of how the different cars perform. Your checklist will likely include verifying that the brakes and steering are in top form, listening for any unusual engine noise, testing the mirrors and so on. It can be helpful to bring along a friend or family member during this process, so you have a second opinion and an ally to help you ask the right questions.

Pay Attention to the Paperwork

Signing the contract to purchase your new car is a big deal. It indicates that you understand and totally agree with all conditions of the sale – so read this document carefully. Look out for added expenses that have been put into the contract, such as rustproofing, fabric protection, or other dealer preparation that may not be mandatory and can be removed to lower your final cost. Most car dealerships will offer some level of warranty; the contract will include specifics on what is and won’t be covered by your warranty and for how long your car is under coverage.

After you drive away with your new car, be sure to keep all the important records and paperwork in a safe, accessible place – including warranty forms, legal documents, loan papers and so on. If your car needs repairs within the first month, it’s imperative to keep a record of this in case you need to make a complaint.

Tags: Auto Loans, Money Tips, Budgeting