- Consumer Reports is your friend. Many people out there might already be familiar with Consumer Reports and the wealth of information they offer, but for those who aren’t, this is a must. They release ratings and reviews for all vehicles for all years. These reviews are based on historic knowledge and surveys completed among thousands of buyers. If the transmissions often go out in that new Nissan you were looking at, they will let you know. If the BMW sedan you were looking at is more expensive than the average among vehicles in its class, they will let you know. They track reliability among used cars back decades. A one-month subscription to access all this information is only $10 and is an absolute MUST when determining which car you are going to buy.
- Test drive all the cars in the class you are looking at. We were looking for a 3rd-row SUV and naturally that led us to consider many of the popular vehicles in this class, the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Kia Telluride, and Hyundai Palisade. I did plenty of research on each of these (watching YouTube reviews) prior to us heading out to do some test driving. We had it narrowed down to the Pilot, Telluride, or Palisade. After test driving all of these vehicles, we pinned it down to the Palisade for sure. But for such a large purchase you have to exhaust all of your options. You will very quickly realize which vehicle has qualities that completely put you off. For instance we thought the Pilot felt cheaply made inside compared to the Palisade which felt like a luxury interior. And there would be nothing worse than buying the first car you saw and then friends asking “did you look at the X? I hear they are amazing.” You’d needlessly regret your decision for years thinking the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.
- If you know what you want, you may have to wait to get it or widen your search. We found this out pretty quick in the process. Just to test drive all of the vehicles we wanted we had to go to multiple dealerships. Often times we wanted to look at a certain SUV of a particular trim level but the only one available to view was a different year and trim class than we wanted. How are you going to make a decision like that, much less find the car you actually want to buy? The point is, you have to be willing to drive a couple hours to see or buy a car if you know what you really want. Or you may have to get put on a wait list and be patient. In our case, we drove nearly six hours to find the car we wanted.
- If you expect to finance, prepare to get wrecked by the increasing interest rates. A couple years ago you could get rates under 1% or even 0% for the first year. Nowadays even with a stellar credit score you are likely looking at rates over 5%. In 2023 this is probably going to be even higher. Now these rates historically aren’t out of this world, but compared to recent history they sure are. So prepare, properly know what to expect before you step into the dealership and know the real end costs of your purchase.
- Keep a level head. I say this because nearly every car has various trim levels. The higher the trim level, the more features and the more expensive. It is very easy to get caught up in the new and impressive features these cars can offer. Leather seats, captains seats in the 2nd row, heated seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, lane assist, cruise control assist, sun roofs, power doors, etc. The list goes on an on. Once you sit in a car that has some of these features, you will start to think it is a must. And if you manage to remain modest and go with a lower trim class, you will feel like you missed out. Just remember that there are always more things that you can get but you don’t need. Try to keep a level head when looking at cars before you overdo it and blow your budget.
Hopefully these five lessons we learned help you to better prepare for your own car shopping experience. If you enjoyed this article and want to access more content like this, please subscribe below for email updates.
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