The time has finally come for you to buy your very first car. However, before racing over to the nearest auto dealership, you will need to formulate a plan of action. There are some important steps you need to follow before buying a car for the first time that will help ensure you get the vehicle you want at a price you can afford.

Set and Stick to a Budget

The first step when buying anything is to set your budget. This will help narrow your search to cars that are within your price range before you fall in love with one that will completely break the bank.

If you are financing or leasing a car it is best to keep your car payments below 10% of your monthly payment that you take home. On top of this, you should also consider the ongoing expenses of owning a car. This includes the price of gas, repairs, and maintenance to the car, and insurance.

Do Your Research

Once you have your budget set, do some online research to see which vehicles are available in your price range that also suits your needs. Watch out for the temptation to buy out of your price range.

Many people prefer to own their car, but there are plenty of advantages to financing or leasing one. Also, look into the different insurance options to give you more peace of mind with your vehicle. There are a lot of different factors that influence your car insurance and range from the age of the car, the model and make of it, to where it sleeps at night. Find the option that is best for you.

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Explore Your Financing and Purchasing Options

When you’ve narrowed down your dream car list, it’s time to really think about how you’ll finance the purchase. Unless you’ve saved up enough money to buy a car outright with cash, you’ll need an auto loan to finance the purchase. If you choose to lease, you will be getting a brand-new car, typically for a lower down payment and monthly payment when compared to buying, but you will eventually have to return it and that means you would have put a lot of money into something that offers you no long term return. The decision is up to you depending on your personal preference and needs.

Improve Your Credit Score

Knowing your credit score before you try to finance a vehicle will give you an idea of which loan terms you are more likely to qualify for. To improve your credit score make sure that you pay your bills on time and pay down your debt.

Consider Buying Used

You can buy used cars from a dealership or from a private seller. Many dealers and manufacturers even sell what are called “certified pre-owned” cars. These used cars have undergone inspections and reconditioning and can even come with limited warranties. When buying a certified pre-owned vehicle, be sure to find out whether the car is covered by a warranty and, if it is, what is covered.

Get the Car Inspected

When buying a used car, you should always have someone, preferably a trusted mechanic, inspect it first. most auto repair shops offer a service called a pre-purchase inspection.

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Look online at auto repair shop reviews for recommendations for highly-rated mechanics near you. The option of mobile mechanics is also out there. These mechanics come to you to inspect the car but taking it into an auto repair shop allows for a more thorough inspection.

If a seller objects to an independent inspection, this should send up red flags and let you know that something is wrong.

Read the Contract Carefully

When you sign a contract, you’re entering into a legal agreement with the seller and once you’ve signed it’s very difficult to undo things. Regardless of who you are buying from taking as much time as you need to read the contract thoroughly before you sign it. Ask questions and call someone reliable, a friend or advisor who has an idea how to read contracts, that you trust if there’s something unclear.

Your first car will likely be the first major purchase you make. There’s a lot to consider, but following these steps can really ease the stress of the process. Careful budgeting, research, and planning will give you the confidence to negotiate the best deal and get your car without being taken for a ride. By following these steps, you can make the most out of your new car with fewer worries to trouble you.