4 Ways to Prepare for Car Buying Season

The month of May is often considered to be the beginning of the “buying season” for vehicles. Are you looking to buy a car? There are so many choices to consider, including the make and model, year, color, size and gas mileage. Your vehicle will probably be the second-biggest expense in your budget (after housing), so it’s best to take your time deciding. How can you avoid getting stuck with a “lemon”? In this post, we’ll show you four ways to be wise when choosing which car to buy.

1. Consider your budget

Have a clear idea in mind of how much you can spend before you step on a car lot or start searching the internet for your next (or first) vehicle. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of buying that flashy new vehicle—which could set your finances back for a long time. Know your budget and stick within it.

2. New or old?

Will you buy a new car or an older one? Keep in mind that more fatal crashes happen in older cars that don’t have the latest driver assistance technology. Researching the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) shopping guide can help you to evaluate the safety record of a specific make or model.

If you’re searching for a new car, remember that older models of a new car lot may be cheaper. So check out the models from last year and ask if that dealership has special programs or incentives.

3. Ask before you sign

Carefully investigate the details before you drive off the lot. Does the car have the features you want? Are you sure you want to look at that color for the next few years? Does the car have enough room for you and your passengers? Will your insurance rates increase if you buy a specific type of car? (Check with your insurance agent before buying.) Most car sales are final, so you won’t be able to return it. Take a good look and ask all the questions on your mind. Don’t be shy!

4. Beware of fraud

Used car fraud is rampant, and one of the most common types is odometer fraud. That’s when a dishonest seller turns the odometer back on a vehicle. The NHTSA calculates that about 450,000 vehicles are sold with false odometer readings every year. Protect yourself by requesting a vehicle history report using the car’s VIN. You can check this online. If you think you’ve been a victim of odometer fraud, get in touch with the NHTSA’s toll-free line at 800-424-9393.

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