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Tips for First-Time Car Buyers | Winston-Salem, NC | Credit Union Auto Buying Service

Tips for First-Time Car Buyers

Buying a car for the first time can be an intimidating experience. Fortunately, choosing the right model for your lifestyle is easy if you take a few steps. Here are a few strategies to help you make the right choice.

Establish a Budget

First, set a budget and sticking to it. Generally, establishing a budget requires sitting down to examine your finances in detail. Determine what you can realistically afford as a monthly car payment. It’s also important to research other costs associated with owning a vehicle, such as taxes, registration fees, and insurance premiums.

Identify Your Needs

Next, think of what vehicle you need. For example, if you have a long commute, a truck probably isn’t the best choice. Cars are much more efficient and save fuel on long commutes. In the same way, a five-person sedan isn’t practical if you have a larger family that likes to go on road trips and needs space for luggage and equipment. A three-row SUV would be a better option.

Do the Research

Thanks to the internet, researching the many makes and models available to you is easier than ever. Browse vehicle model reviews online.

Make a note of the necessary features you want in your vehicle, and look for models that meet those specifications. If connectivity is important, consider a vehicle with a built-in Wi-Fi® hotspot. If you’re looking for comfort, then heated and ventilated seats might be a must-have feature.

Take a Test Drive

Once you’ve established a budget, figured out what you need, and performed the necessary research, it’s time to take a test drive. Most dealerships are more than happy to allow potential customers to take a test drive in whatever vehicle they want. Set aside a weekend to test-drive the various vehicles on your list, to determine which one you like best.


It’s important to do your research before you make your selection when it comes to buying a car. Decide whether you want to buy new or used, as well as what kind of budget you want to stick to. How much can you afford to put down on a vehicle? What about monthly payments? Make sure to check your credit score, too. Gathering that information beforehand makes it easier to narrow down the pool of potential vehicles.

Taking Your Pick

Ideally, after the research phase, you will have a short list of models you are interested in. This is the part where test-driving factors into the equation. First of all, shop around at multiple dealerships to get a rough idea of what they have to offer, and test-drive various vehicles. Make mental notes of how each vehicle performs, any discomfort you may be experiencing, and the features of each one.



The most intimidating part of the car-buying process is actually buying the vehicle. There are multiple routes you can take here. The most common one is financing through the dealership. The purchaser will pay a down payment upfront, which goes toward the full cost of the car. Then, the dealership’s financial department will offer a loan to cover the rest of the cost. You’ll make monthly payments until you pay off the final balance. Other people may select other options such as pre-qualifying for a loan at a separate financial institution or paying in full, though these methods usually involve more steps.

Be Realistic


Yes, we’d all like to have the latest luxury car with all the bells and whistles, but what do you really need and want out of a car? Once you have a narrowed focus, it becomes easier to think about the kind of money you’re willing to spend. Make a realistic budget. Can you still afford everything you’re looking for? Refine your list until it aligns with your budget and needs.


Prioritize Your Wants 


Maybe your budget allows for some fun add-ons. Again, you can’t have everything. But prioritizing the additional features you want in order of importance can help you make a better, more satisfying decision.


Keep Credit in Mind

Remember, buying a car isn’t just about how much you put down on the vehicle upfront. It is also about having good enough credit to find a satisfying car loan with good rates, and also how much you can afford to pay in terms of monthly payments.

If you need help finding a vehicle that suits your needs and preferences, contact us at Credit Union Auto Buying Service. We’ll be happy to help match you with the right vehicle.

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