Vehicle Buyer’s Guide

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Looking for a new or used car and wondering where to start? This guide will go over the basics and get you started on your car shopping adventure.

Which Vehicle Is Right For Me?

SUV or pickup truck? Sedan or coupe? Whether you’re looking for something with the best gas mileage or you need to get four kids to soccer practice, the first step in buying a new car is figuring out which vehicle is right for you. With so many options out there doing a quick self assessment can help narrow down the options and get you thinking about which vehicle is right for you.


Will more than two people ride in the car at least twice per week?
Would you ever use this vehicle to move, do projects or haul things?
Do you drive more than 40 miles per day?
Are you in unpaved or snow covered areas more than once per month?
Do you plan on your life situation changing in the next three years?

Pay Cash

If you have the cash on hand you can buy the vehicle outright. No lending institution is involved.


If you have some money for a down payment and are interested in owning the vehicle you can take out a loan to cover the cost.


Leasing is a way to get a new vehicle without paying large amounts of cash or taking out a loan.

A Little On Leasing

Leasing a car lets you drive a new vehicle without paying a large down payment or taking out a loan. You’ll make a small down payment (less than the usual 20% when buying) and have monthly payments for the term of the lease. When the term expires, you return the car, and sometimes you have the option of buying it for its residual value.

Leasing can be a good option if you don’t have a large down payment and want a new vehicle, or you want the ability to easily upgrade in a few years.


Lower down payment
Covered by factory warranty
Ability to upgrade to a new car sooner


Limited miles
Responsible for excess depreciation
Limited customization

How Does Financing Work?

When you finance a vehicle you take out a loan to buy the car and pay it down every month. After the loan is paid the vehicle is yours. Financing a vehicle requires a larger down payment than leasing, usually at least 20% of the vehicle price.

You might want to finance a vehicle if you don’t want the mileage restrictions of a lease, want to own the vehicle outright and have money saved for a larger down payment.


You own the vehicle
Unlimited miles
Build equity in the vehicle


Usually locked into keeping the vehicle for longer
Higher monthly payment
Limited warranty coverage

What If You Have Bad Credt?

Don’t get discouraged! With so many factors going into financing a new vehicle you can still get an auto loan even with bad credit. Before you visit the center determine your financial situation and budget. Get a copy of your credit report so you know what to expect in terms of financing. Find a vehicle that fits in your budget and go to a reputable dealer.

Some Things To Think About

  • Make a wise vehicle selection. Aim for the newest, lowest mileage vehicle within your means.
  • Put money down to decrease the size of the loan.
  • Having a strong cosigner can help you qualify for the loan.
  • Keep the loan with good payment history for at least 12 months.
  • Don’t shop your credit.

Finding The Right Place

Once you’ve decided which vehicle to buy and how you’d like to buy it, you need to find the right place to look.

Private Party


Less than truthful disclosures
No inspection
No option for protections
As-is sale
No finance options


Could find the ‘gem’
May get a lower price

Private Lot


Negotiation is often involved
Minimal inspection/reconditioning
Limited ability to back the product
Often older and less desirable inventory


Potential to negotiate a good deal
May have unique inventory
May purchase your trade



May require negotiation
Salespeople may be commission-based which can lead to up-selling


Larger selection
More likely to stand behind the product
Service and parts are readily available
More likely to recondition the vehicle
Financing and protection options
More likely to buy your trade

Shopping In General

Find the right vehicle.
Before you even get to the lot do a self-assessment to determine what you need in a vehicle.

Ask a lot of questions.
If they can’t answer or you don’t understand, it’s probably not a wise investment or the right place for you to buy from.

They should be there to help you.
If you feel pressured or uncomfortable while making your purchase think about buying somewhere else. You should never purchase something you don’t see the value in.

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