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Car Buying Checklist

There's nothing like that new car smell, even if your car isn't brand new. Before you buy a new or used vehicle, it pays to do your homework. Use this checklist for tips to help save you money and to simplify the car buying process.


  1. Do your research. Researching and comparing vehicles is an important first step in finding out the value of any car you trade in and the new car you want to purchase. Good research is key and plays a significant role in helping you get the deal you deserve through dealer or a private party. It arms you with the best information to negotiate the price you can afford and a payment that will fit your budget;
  2. Before you go to the dealer, contact the credit union to get pre-approved;
  3. Find out what financing option is best for you. The term, vehicle year, and your credit history will help determine the interest rate you'll get for your loan and the payment that will fit your budget;
  4. Lock in your rate and find out what range of vehicles you can shop for;
  5. Consider the benefits and cost savings of purchasing additional insurances, such as Mechanical Breakdown Warranty and GAP Insurance. GAP Insurance covers you so you don't become upside down in your loan. Most dealerships will offer these services to you but at a much higher price than you can get with your credit union;
  6. At the dealership, test drive the vehicle to make sure it meets your needs and expectations. Does a 0% APR loan make sense for you? If doesn't include rebates, you could save more in the long run by financing elsewhere and getting the rebate from the dealership.
  7. Focus on the total price of your "new" car and what the end price will be with applicable rebates and interest. Dealers many times will focus on the payment and you could wind up signing for a higher interest rate or a lengthier term.
  8. Beware of "add-ons" through the dealership and feel free to ask questions. Are the add-ons, like alarm systems, rust protection, glass etching, and so on, necessary for you to purchase at the dealership?
  9. Upon purchasing your vehicle, contact your auto insurance company to inform them of your purchase so you can drive away—safely—in your new vehicle.