Ten tips for first-time car buyers from Kelley Blue Book

(September 29, 2011) IRVINE, Calif. — Kelley Blue Book's www.kbb.com today offers 10 Tips for First-Time Car Buyers, including what, how and where to buy.

Buying a car for the first time is a celebratory moment in anyone's life, regardless of age, and the site's expert editors offers their 'best kept secrets' to ease the trip to the dealer with these easy-to-remember pointers.

"The car-buying process is never filled with as much uncertainty as it is for the first time," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.  "With this advice in mind, Kelley Blue Book hopes to alleviate some of the stress inherent with such a large financial decision."

10.  Establish a realistic budget

This figure is generally based on what you can afford per month.  Calculate your cost-of-living in all the more important areas, like shelter, food, health insurance and Happy Hour.  Once you have that total, the remainder could be spent on a car payment, car insurance and, of course, gas for your new ride.

9.  Know what you can spend monthly

While this may look similar to #10, your level of indebtedness is different from your monthly commitment.  If you choose to finance your car, figure $25/month for every thousand dollars that you borrow for 48 months, and $20/month for 60-month financing. 

8.  Establish your transportation needs

Make sure to choose a car that best fits your needs.  For instance, if your lifestyle or career requires a car for hauling heaving items, then invest in a larger, heavy-duty vehicle. Given the cost of fuel, insurance and – in many cities – monthly parking, don't buy what you don't need. 

7.  Identify and prioritize your wants

The first-time purchase doesn't need to be your be-all/end-all acquisition, but you should still pay attention to your 'want' list.  Better to stretch a bit for those features that will bring more satisfaction in your purchase and prevent buyer's remorse.

6.  Do your research (it's never been easier)

There is an incredible amount of information and perspective on new cars and their late-model alternatives.  There are listings devoted to cars for teenagers, cars for students and first-time buyers.  Check out Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com expert reviews, owner reviews and consumer guides for more information on your future ride.

5.  Locate a convenient dealer

Don't feel intimidated, as the dealership salesman is closer to a normal person than you think.  When deciding between different car models, compare dealer locations and showroom environments.  We tend to stay away from dealerships where two-thirds of the sales staff is sitting or standing at the front of the entrance.   

4. Take a test drive

With all of the online sources available for your basic research, we believe the importance of the test drive has been marginalized. Virtually nothing is more important in your decision process than how you feel behind the wheel.

3. Determine the proper purchase price

Once you've decided what you like — and have already established what you can afford — it's time to arrive at a purchase price. This, too, has been made easier by online sites. A credit union should also be able to provide you with perspective, and may have a contact on the showroom floor.

2. Secure financing, or know your options

Financing issues are somewhat like the purchase price; there has been an exponential growth in the number of resources. That, however, is mitigated by your lack of credit history or, in an increasing number of instances, marginal credit history. The last thing you want, however, is to be in a room with an F&I (Finance and Insurance) rep, and he or she is holding all the cards; the deck — if you will — is stacked against you. Better to talk with your credit union, bank or insurance provider (many have the capability and desire to finance your purchase), and line up your financing in advance. You can always go with the dealer option if it's competitive — but never approach it as if the dealer is the only money game in town.

1. Enjoy the process

We know, the above advice makes buying a car seem like an ordeal, but even those with no interest or passion in a car or truck can — if the process is given half a chance — be stimulated by the sheer variety of options available, and the genuine creativity that goes in to today's automotive menu.

For more detailed Kelley Blue Book commentary on car buying click here.