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Three Things to Do BEFORE You Purchase a Vehicle

At the end of the year, auto dealerships face two impending pressures: their end-of-year sales quotas, and the need for more space on the lot for next year’s models. Those pressures prove to be opportunities for potential buyers—it creates a “buyer’s market” in terms of putting the power in your hands.

Of course, even if it’s an ideal time to purchase a vehicle, it’s still a major expense. Rather than simply speeding through the process, it’s worth pumping the brakes to avoid hitting any bumps along the road. Following these helpful hints when you’re looking to purchase a vehicle could help you get those wheels rolling along:

1. Plan the Financing, Ahead of the Purchase:

Unless you’re planning on purchasing a new vehicle outright—and even if you are—you should prepare your finances for the purchase. That preparation includes determining your price range or the repayment schedule that fits into your budget, but it should also include researching your financing options ahead of time.

Dealerships may receive a commission or some sort of incentive to have you finance through their own financing company. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you’re getting the loan that has the “best fit” or best rate for your financial goals. Offers such as 0% down, lower rates, or cash rebates can be enticing, but it is important to look at these types of incentive programs with a longer view—especially determining which option will lead to the most savings over the life of the loan.

Instead, it’s a much smarter financial decision to have your financing already planned. Vantage offers vehicle loans with a number of term options at competitive rates for our members. Financing with Vantage includes the added benefits of pre-approval, no penalties for early payoff, and the loan carries simple interest calculated only on the outstanding principle.

2. Do Your Homework:

Purchasing a vehicle can be stressful, so one of the best ways to reduce stress in the process is to become as knowledgeable as possible. Here are a few things that are worth knowing as you begin to prepare:

  • What models are you considering? It’s always a good idea to have a few vehicle models in mind. Before you arrive at the dealership or head out to take a test drive, know which models and vehicles fit your needs. A simply Google search will start you on your way, but you should also take a look at Consumer Reports® for a more detailed review of each vehicle.
  • What’s the “cost”? (MSRP or NADA Guide® ) It may seem obvious, but often buyers fall into the trap of forgetting to compare costs among dealerships, or they forget to look at the recommended purchase price or value of the vehicle.
  • What’s the best “time” to purchase? Whenever you purchase a vehicle, the time of year, month, week, and even day can make a difference. Generally speaking, the end of the year is the best time to purchase, and the end of the month could also be advantageous. Purchasing in the middle of the week might also provide some incentive, as dealerships are traditionally busier on the weekends.
  • Where is the best place to shop? It’s important to remember that just because a dealership is “down the street” from you doesn’t necessarily mean they’re your best option. Feel free to shop around, read reviews on the dealerships, and seek guidance. One resource we provide is our Vantage Indirect Dealer Network , which includes nearly 150 local automotive dealers who both partner with Vantage to finance your vehicle and provide their inventories online.

3. Remember Your Power as the Buyer:

Negotiating down a price, navigating options, or sorting through any of the confusing terms can be exhausting. In the midst of interacting with both the complexities of the process and the pressure of a salesperson, it can be easy to forget a fundamental reality: you are the buyer—they cannot force you to buy anything.

Does that really matter? YES. One of the most powerful negotiating tools you have when shopping for a vehicle is that you can simply walk away—you can leave a dealership and go to another one to complete a similar purchase. The dealership wants you to purchase from them, but you have options and they know it. That’s an important leverage worth noting if you feel pressured or stressed.


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As you plan your next vehicle purchase, get prepared by planning ahead. Talk with one of our financial coaches beforehand—they may have additional ideas for your particular financial situation! If you want to do some additional research and homework on your own, see our additional resources.

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