11 Tips Every First-Time Car Buyer Should Know

You just landed your first job out of college and are (somewhat) ready to take that leap into adulthood. That usually means getting rid of that hand-me-down jalopy and buying a more reliable vehicle — because you can’t always depend on public transportation to get you to work on time.

Where do you start? Before venturing into a car dealership near you, be sure to review our unofficial guide to buying your first car.

1. Figure out your budget

Never just assume you can afford that 2022 Honda CR-V Hybrid just because you landed a job out of college. While it’s certainly one of the most affordable new hybrid SUVs to buy, it might not be a financially wise choice if you’re still figuring out your career path. 

“Ok, wise guys. So how much should I pay for my first car?”

That’s definitely a valid question. Some experts advise that you spend no more than half your annual gross salary on your first vehicle (financed, not at one time). Other experts believe that it should be less than that. What it comes down to is your ability to pay. Use Honda’s payment calculator to figure out the best cars to buy based on your budget.

If you have a stable job and need a reliable car, by all means make a sensible down payment and buy that dependable vehicle. New cars are very reliable, though they’re more expensive, of course. 

If you want to avoid paying more per month, a pre-owned vehicle is your best bet. Used cars are cheaper, but they may need extra TLC and repairs over time. 

Then there are certified pre-owned cars. CPO vehicles offer the best of both new and used. They come backed by a warranty, are thoroughly inspected, have low mileage, and are more affordable than new cars. Speak with a car dealer near you to see what CPO cars are available.

Also, keep in mind that you have car financing options that can help you lower your payments. If you go with a car loan with longer terms (like 72 months), your monthly car payments will be lower, but you’ll pay more over time. A shorter-term loan (like 36 months) will make your monthly auto finance payments significantly higher, but you’ll pay less in interest. 

Here’s an example of a $20,000 vehicle loan at 6% interest:

  • 72-month – $23,865 at $331/mo.
  • 36-month – $21,904 at $605/mo.

Can you afford the extra $274 per month? If so, a shorter-term loan is in your best interest, no pun intended.

2. Check for deals

Sticking with the money theme, our second tip is to always be on the lookout for available finance deals, lease offers and specials at your local car dealership. Certain times of the year, like these holidays, present better opportunities to save on new vehicles. These vary by auto manufacturer, so it’s always a good decision to start checking for vehicle sales at the beginning of every month. 

For instance, the Happy Honda Days are going on right now at a Honda dealership near you! Throughout the entire month of December, all the way to January 3, 2022, you can get an incredible price on all your favorite new Honda models. View our current Honda special offers in Miami.

Used car deals are also available, and will differ from region to region. For instance, because of demand, used car lots in Miami may have more used sporty sedans and compact crossovers on sale than big trucks and minivans. That means you could get a good price on something like a used Civic when shopping at your South Florida Honda Dealers.

3. Save up

Once you figure out your budget, you’ll want to save up a down payment. This should be at least 20% of the vehicle’s price point. The larger your down payment, the higher the likelihood of getting the best possible loan terms and interest rate. If you need help with a down payment on a car, your dealer may have options. Always ask!

Buy Car Online

4. Research is your friend

You spent years arduously doing homework, cramming for exams, and keeping up with all the latest school gossip. Now it’s time to make good use of all that practice to research the best cars to buy. 

As you research how to buy your first car, don’t just look at prices. Be sure to take in the whole picture. This includes standard and available features, safety ratings, resale values, lease terms, awards, critic reviews, and comparisons. (Look at how Honda compares to rivals.)

Wondering if you should buy or lease a car? Review some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

5. Check and improve your credit

Before you even apply for financing or a car lease, make sure you’re on top of your credit history. 

Good credit (FICO scores above 700) will get you the best possible interest rate. Bad credit (under 600) will make it more difficult to purchase a new car, but you should still be able to finance a used car relatively easily — if you’re willing to pay more in interest and potentially refinance your auto loan a year-plus down the line.

Do you know what your credit score is? Check here for free.

If your credit score is in the red, and you’re able to hold off on buying a vehicle for a few months, consider making a plan to improve your credit utilization ratio. You can do this fairly quickly by continuing to make payments on bills on time (DON’T SKIP ANY!), paying off debt, disputing any errors on your credit report, and asking for higher credit limits on your current accounts. Here are some other tips to improve your credit score fast.

6. Take test drives

Younger car shoppers are skipping the test-drive phase and going straight to buying a car online. But that’s a big mistake! The test drive is a crucial part of purchasing a car, even if you decide not to buy straight from the dealership. 

Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Near Me

7. Get a pre-purchase inspection

It’s always an excellent idea to get an inspection for any vehicle you’re seriously interested in purchasing. While car dealers inspect, recondition and repair their used cars for sale, always get a second opinion. The cost for a third-party pre-purchase inspection (PPI) can be in the hundreds, but it’s a wise choice if you’re making a $15,000 investment in a car that should last a decade. 

8. Don’t skip the fine print

You might gloss over the terms and conditions before playing a game, but don’t make that mistake when you sign a car lease or auto loan document. When you sign a contract for a vehicle, you’re bound to that contract by law; if you renege on that contract, you’re going to be in a world of hurt that could take years to bounce back from.

Look out for extra charges you may not agree to, as well as any modifications or items you negotiated with your dealer. Check the APR or interest rate on a loan. See what the fees are for mileage, late payments, wear and tear, etc. And if you have any questions, ask your salesperson for car buying assistance. 

9. Get by with a little car buying help from your friends

Don’t be afraid to bring along a friend, family member or even a coworker for some extra emotional support. If that person happens to know a lot about vehicles or the sales process, you can use their knowledge to help you get a good deal. 

10. Request quotes online

Never assume the closest car dealer near you has the lowest price. Always request quotes on the same vehicle (model) from multiple local auto dealerships. Average out that price, cross-check with the price you discovered during the research phase, and you’ll see which dealers to do business with.

Need a price on a new Honda or used car in Miami. Request a quote from your South Florida Honda Dealers.

11. Understand that cars need to be maintained

First-time car buyers need to know that purchasing a vehicle is not a one-and-done deal. They need regular maintenance — oil changes, tire rotations, wheel alignments, new tires, car washes, new windshield wipers, insurance, and the list goes on. If you don’t have a dependable place to park, like inside a garage, you might also need service for hail damage, auto body repair due to hit-and-runs, and general weather-related problems that may arise. 

Your dealership’s service center should be able to help you keep track of all your routine maintenance, even going so far as to contact you to book appointments. (Click here to schedule Honda service in South Florida.)

New Honda for Sale Near Me

Bonus Tip: Enjoy!

Once you get all these details squared away, you’ll have a new or used car to call your own. Hooray! 

Whether you need to shop for a used car, test drive some new Hondas, or schedule an oil change in Miami, trust your South Florida Honda Dealers. Locate your nearest auto dealership today, and we’ll get you on your way.