Before You Shop

What You Should Know Before You Go

Buying and financing a car is a big step in a person's life. It's a decision that should not be taken lightly. Before you start shopping for a car, just like any big-dollar purchase, there are few things you should think about.

Analyze your current financial situation - You'll want to look at your overall financial picture and see if a new car is something that you can really afford. This will help you determine how much you can afford to pay each month for your car. There are numerous online resources to help you prepare a budget and determine how much you can spend.

Obtain a copy of your credit report and credit score - Making a major purchase like a car is a great time to do a credit check-up, because the dealers and lenders will be examining your credit during the process. You should know what they will be looking at before they do - the higher your credit score, the better opportunity for you to negotiate credit terms. This will also give you a chance to correct any errors that might be negatively affecting your credit. You are entitled to receive a free credit report each year. In some states you can receive more than one. Request your free credit report and make sure everything on it makes sense and is accurate. If you find something unusual or wrong, don't hesitate to contact the credit bureau or the creditor and ask about it. Reviewing and fixing your credit report will help you not only with buying your car, but also with all of your other credit transactions such as buying a house or opening a credit card account. Vist the Useful Links page for websites where you can obtain your free credit report.

Pick out your dream car - Once you know what you can afford and addressed any incorrect information in you credit file, you're now ready to pick out your dream car. Knowing what you want before you go to the dealer will keep you from being overwhelmed when you get there. Look for the cars in your price range at several different dealers and then check online to make sure the prices advertised by the dealers are reasonable. The internet is also a great tool to read reviews about the car you want and to research if the choice you've made is really the car for you. If you have a car that you are considering trading, the internet is also an excellent resource to help you determine its value prior to visiting the dealer.