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10 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Car Purchase

Personal Finance Saving
A young couple sitting in the new car they just purchased for a discounted price

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Updated for 2024.

Are you in the market for a new car, truck, or SUV? If so, do you have a plan for your next car purchase? Getting a new car is an important financial decision, and simply planning your car purchase beforehand can save you a pretty penny.

One crucial factor to consider is the method that you will use to pay for your new car, whether that’s paying in cash, financing through a dealer, or applying for a car loan through your local credit union or bank.

Let’s go over some money-saving tips that could help you prevent overspending on your next car purchase.

At a glance:

  • Shop around at multiple dealerships to compare prices and negotiate effectively.
  • Research your desired car’s market value and consider buying used to save on depreciation.
  • Negotiate the total price, not just the monthly payment, and consider trading in your old car.
  • Be aware of the entire cost, including interest rates, taxes, insurance, and registration.

1. Skip the loan and pay in cash.

We realize this may not be an option for many people. But if you have the means, paying in full for your car using cash upfront can save you a significant chunk of money that you would otherwise spend on interest alone. Not only will you own your new vehicle outright while avoiding monthly car payments, but many dealerships may also offer cash discounts on the purchase price of a car as incentives to their customers.

2. Compare prices at multiple dealerships.

It may be tempting, but purchasing the first car you look at is not always a good idea. If nothing else, shopping around at several car dealers will at least give you an idea of what you can expect to get for your price range — and an advantage when negotiating vehicle price, too.

3. Research your car ahead of time.

Before you head out looking for a car, private party or dealership, ensure you know the market value of the vehicles you want. The easiest way to do this is to research the Kelley Blue Book® price for each make and model you’re interested in. You may also want to check out the Consumer Report® for more information about the car.

4. Choose a used car.

You might want to purchase a used car rather than a brand-new one for several reasons. By purchasing a car a few years older, you’ll get more of the features you want at a lower price. You’ll also have to worry less about depreciation. According to Kelley Blue Book, many new vehicles lose up to 20% of their original value within the first year. The depreciation rate isn’t as extreme when you purchase a preowned car — even a 1-year-old vehicle can save you a significant amount of money. Many used cars also come with warranties these days, making it an even more attractive option.

5. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

It never hurts to know how to negotiate the price of the car, especially if you notice any minor flaws. Often, you can lower the cost by at least several hundred dollars by simply knowing the car’s fair market value and being willing to walk away if the price isn’t right. This applies to both car dealerships and private sellers.

Another good negotiation tip is to focus on the car’s total price. A salesperson will sometimes try to gauge how much of a monthly payment you can afford instead of your total budget, which can lead to you spending more money than you anticipated.

6. Use your old car for trade-in credit.

Many dealerships will allow you to trade in your old vehicle for a credit toward the new vehicle sale, and some will even accept a trade-in for the down payment. Make sure you know the fair trade-in value of your car before going to the dealership to give you more bargaining power. Remember, your trade-in price can be negotiable, too.

7. Be aware of the entire cost.

To save money when buying a car, it’s essential to make sure you factor in the entire cost. This includes the interest rate, extra features, sales tax, auto insurance and registration fees. Although it may seem like a good deal when you simply look at the base monthly payment, you may get charged more once the interest rate is factored in. It also helps to know ahead of time the type of upgrades you’re interested in. This way, in the excitement of buying a new car, you won’t be swayed to purchase unnecessary up-sells and add-on packages.

8. Remain patient in your search.

Never start your search for the best car with the mindset that you’ll drive home in a new vehicle that same day — this is one of the worst things you can do when trying to save money while buying a car. It can lead to an impulse purchase, which is almost always synonymous with spending more money. Even if you find something you really love, take the car out for a test drive knowing you aren’t going to buy it today. Being patient and willing to walk away from a sale can be a powerful negotiation tactic you can use to your advantage.

9. Compare financing options.

Just like different dealerships will have varying prices on their vehicles, you will find financing options that are better than others. Try shopping around for auto loans to ensure you get the best rate, and plan on having at least three options from different lenders to compare before settling on one. Being preapproved for a car loan is another plus — it gives you a budget to stick to and can even help you negotiate. For instance, the dealership may offer you an even lower rate to use their in-house financing.

10. Read the fine print on the loan.

Always read the fine print on car loans to ensure you won’t be penalized for something like paying off your car early. Make sure you understand your loan terms and interest rate. Look for what add-ons, if any, are included in the loan contract to ensure you aren’t paying for extra features you don’t even want.

The bottom line

Ultimately, you will likely find it easier to save money during the car-buying process if you already have a well-thought-out plan in place. Purchasing a vehicle is a significant financial decision, especially if you intend to make loan payments. Know the value of your current car, the car you want to buy and your budget before you go to the dealership and be prepared to take your time negotiating and comparing prices from other dealerships or private parties. With some diligence and patience, you can turn your next car purchase into a savvy investment without breaking the bank.

This article is for informational purposes only and not legal or financial advice.
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