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June 11, 2020

Shop Smart When Buying a Car

Used or new? Sedan or SUV? Local lot or national dealership? You make a lot of decisions when looking for a new ride. And, if you’re anything like us, you probably see a lot of conflicting advice related to car buying. It can be an overwhelming process.

We want to share a few tips for you to consider as you begin car shopping so you can get a good deal and drive away in style.

Decide between used or new.

With many car varieties to choose from and every person being unique, it’s not surprising that car buying doesn’t have any one-size-fits-all best recommendation. Let’s explore the benefits and differences between buying used and buying new.

Buying used

Conventional wisdom says buying used cars is the way to go. You save on the initial “off the lot” depreciation that takes place with buying a brand-new car. You can even opt for a car that’s only a year or two behind the current models to get a nice, reliable vehicle while spending less on the car overall, compared to buying brand-new. (Bonus: A lot of gently used cars come with partial or full warranties remaining, so you might get extra bang for your buck, too.)

You’ll always want to check the vehicle history which should show any major accidents. Most history reports also include vehicle maintenance records for your peace of mind. As an additional safety measure, consider having the car professionally inspected before purchasing by a third party of your choosing, such as your trusted mechanic.

Buying new

Especially in times like these, when consumers are turning to used cars more often due to the current economic conditions, car dealers may be more likely to offer great specials on the new models, such as a large amount off Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price or low-interest financing options. For some people, buying new might be a preferable option. Maybe you just want confidence in knowing that you’ve taken care of the vehicle throughout its lifetime, or perhaps you want to customize your car features a bit more than buying used will allow. If you find a great deal on a new car you love, that’s great! We say go for the car that fits your budget but also gives you those warm and fuzzy feelings.

Bottom line: Do your research, run the numbers and consider your personal situation to decide what works best for you. Think about your budget, what you want from a car, how you will use the vehicle and how long will you plan to keep it.

Do your research.

If you’re unsure where to start in your vehicle search, consider doing research about various makes and models. Consult reliable sources, such as Kelley Blue Book, U.S. News & World Report, Consumer Reports and others.1 Once you narrow in on a make and model (or a few that you like best), review car buying data for your area to figure out a reasonable price range for the vehicle(s) in your sights. With a bit of research, you can find out what other consumers in your area paid for the same vehicle, so you’ll have a price point to target and know a good deal when you see it. You’ll also be able to leverage your research in any negotiations with the dealership. Research definitely pays off when it comes to car buying!

Ready to hit the car lot?

You’ve done the research and are ready to roll. Consider the following tips for maximum success:

  • Get preapproved for a loan before you shop. Unless you’re taking advantage of a specific dealership financing special, your best bet is to get your financing in place before you visit the car lot. You will know your purchasing power and be able to negotiate as if you were paying cash. You’ll know your specific budget and, with the research you’ve done in advance about car models and car prices in your area, you’ll walk onto the lot with confidence. No need for dealership financing back-and-forth, which can be very time consuming.
  • Don’t show your hand on the test drive, if you want the lowest price. If you’re at a typical dealership where some negotiation is expected, you don’t want to reveal that you’re in love with the vehicle. In the game of negotiation, a level of “I’m willing to walk away if the price isn’t satisfactory” helps the buyer.
  • Actually be willing to walk away. If you aren’t comfortable for any reason, take your business elsewhere. You shouldn’t have to haggle all day long or endure double-speak to get a reasonable price. When in doubt, leave your name and contact information and say, “Call me if you can do an out-the-door price of X.”
  • Do what you’re comfortable with. You can definitely get a good deal if you shop around and are willing to negotiate. But if you prefer a quick transaction and don’t want to negotiate price, or simply don’t care for haggling, there are many options for flat-price, no-haggle vehicle shopping, both in-person and online.

Need an auto loan?

Apply for a loan with us to get preapproved in as little as 60 seconds, and take that preapproval to any dealer, anywhere in the country. Learn more.

Looking for place to buy your car?

Check out CU AutoBranch, a dealership dedicated to credit union members, with pre-owned vehicles for as low as 0.0% APR2 when financed with Grow. CU AutoBranch also offers free delivery up to 100 miles and a seven day/1,000 miles buy-back guarantee.

We hope these tips help you navigate the car buying process, figure out what’s best for you and find a great deal. Roll off the lot in confidence and hit the open road!

1Grow is not affiliated with Kelley Blue Book, U.S. News & World Report or Consumer Reports.
2Fixed rates for select pre-owned vehicles range between 0.00% APR and 6.50% APR for terms up to 60 months. The rate you receive is determined by your credit history, year of the vehicle, and term of the loan.
Subject to credit approval. The rate you receive is determined by your credit history, year of the vehicle, and term of the loan.


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