First Timers: Tips for Buying a Car for the First Time

From searching to buying, there are many tips for a buying a car that you should follow. Tips on Buying a Car for the First Time; TJ Woods Insurance Agency; Worcester, MAEspecially if it’s your first time buying a car.

Learning how to buy a first car is important because if you overlook an important step, your wallet may be paying for it. When you’re buying a car for the first time, it’s important to have established credit. Credit is the first step because without it, you may or may not be approved to buy the vehicle you want.

When buying a car, you should have an idea of what you can afford, how it will be paid for, and most importantly what you want. Finding the right car that’s suitable for you is crucial when buying a car for the first time because it is an investment you will depend upon daily. If you commute often, consider buying a car with better gas milage.

Knowing what you want is an important step of how to buy a first car because it keeps a guideline for a budget. Car buyers are easy to manipulate, especially those who are buying a car for the first time. Keep in mind that when buying a car from the dealership, it’s an involved process from the paper work right up to the final sale. Buying a car for the first time can be intimidating; however, with the tips below from CollegeXpress on how to buy a first car, buying a car will be a breeze.

How to Buy Your First Car

Graduating from college and buying your first car are two milestones that often go hand in hand. It’s exciting, but plenty intimidating, as the options seem limitless. But buying a car is not as hard as it seems. You just need to arm yourself with the right information.

Whether you decide to buy new or used, take the same approach: do your research and know your budget.

You need credit

Your greatest asset when buying a car (when buying most big-ticket items, really) is your credit score. “Make sure your credit is clean before you apply. Make sure your financing is straightened out before you even get to the dealer,” says Jeff Ostroff, author and founder of

In all likelihood, you as a twentysomething adult should have some credit history, however short. But if you don’t, it doesn’t take long to build some. “You never want to make a car loan your very first type of credit,” says Ostroff; rather, have at least six months of credit history behind you before you go car shopping. You can start with a credit card from your bank or a gas card from a local gas station, but be wary of store credit cards, which generally have high interest rates (18%–22%). Pay your bills on time and in full every month, and you will soon have a solid credit score on which to build a solid financial future.

If you’re saddled with monthly student loans payments, you may actually have an advantage here: it shows you are responsible with installment payments, the same kind used with any car financing. This makes you a more reliable buyer than recent grads without any loans.

Finding the right car

Being as informed as possible is your best defense against paying too much for a car. Use the consumer reports provided by websites or magazines to determine just how much the cars you’re considering are worth. “You better know the price you should be paying,” Ostroff says. “Use a folder and stuff all your research in there. All of their scams are going to be put to a skid.”

Though there are many car search websites to choose from, some perennial favorites like Kelley Blue Book,, Consumer Reports’ website, Yahoo! Autos, and are usually very dependable. You’ll find payment calculators, reader reviews, and industry reports, making it easy to find the most fuel-efficient/safest/most popular car in your price range.

Low-maintenance, dependable cars like the Toyota Camry and the Honda Civic make good first cars. Provided you change the oil and perform regular maintenance, both can last as many as 300,000 miles. (Averaging 15,000 miles per year, that’s 20 years!)

As for new versus used cars, it really depends on how you want to finance and what you can afford, as interest rates vary for new and used cars. Going the used route, you also need to get a vehicle history report, available through the dealer or websites like When looking at a car’s history, pay attention. If it was in the shop six times in one year for the same problem, then perhaps you should reconsider. It also doesn’t hurt to read up on your state’s “lemon laws,” which pertain to excessive vehicle repairs.

At the dealership

“With first-time buyers, you have to go through a little bit more of a process,” says Brian Munroe, author of Car Buying Revealed: How to Buy A Car and Not Get Taken for a Ride.

When you’re finally filling out the paperwork, you will need to prove you’re employed, either through a letter of employment (if you have yet to start) or with a pay stub. Unfortunately, you’re not going to get the best rates out there because you are automatically considered “higher risk” as a young person–remember, you only have a limited credit score to back you up. However, many companies like Jeep and Nissan offer special programs with lower interest rates for recent college graduates. Just be aware that anything negative on your credit score can potentially knock you out of the program.

When you’re working with dealers, keep in mind that they want to get you excited about a car, to fall in love with their potential sale. “But you have to look at a car as a piece of metal,” Munroe says. “You can always trade it in down the road.” Bring a parent or friend along to act as the voice of reason, he advises, and don’t buy anything on your first trip to the dealership. “Have the ability to walk away.”

Buy or lease?

The upside to leasing is that payments will be lower in general, but this route is only ideal for a small group of people. “You really need to examine your future three years out before you sign a lease,” Ostroff says. A lease is a contract, and if you suddenly decide it’s not the car for you . . . too bad.

For example: not all dealerships allow you to move to a different state with your leased car (due to taxes), making relocation a problem. You are also given a set amount of miles to drive, such as 12,000 a year for three years. If you drive more than that, you need to pay for the overage—by the mile. You can terminate your lease early, but you will have to pay a pretty sizable fee, sometimes thousands of dollars. As you would do with any contract, read the lease very carefully and iron out details with the dealer before you sign.

If you still think leasing is the best option for you, then lease away. If not, finance the car, but make sure you can afford it. “They shouldn’t be spending any more than 20% of their net income,” says Munroe.

In the past economically tumultuous year, many online lenders have stopped offering auto loans, making financing your first car a little more difficult. But there is still your neighborhood bank or credit union. Ostroff recommends the latter. “Credit unions tend to be a lot kinder to you than your bank; you tend to get favorable rates,” he says.

Buying a car may involve taking out a loan from a bank or financing through the dealership itself, but having a sizable down payment will always help offset interest accrued over time. Save up about 20% of the car’s price, at least. “Be conservative, know what you can afford, and don’t overspend,” Munroe advises. “Follow that and be strict with it.”

Maintenance and the little things

As you are probably aware, there’s a lot more to buying a car than paying the monthly bill. Obviously there’s gas, and with this wildly fluctuating market, you should make allowances for spiking fuel costs in your budget. Then there’s oil changes, new wiper fluid, a broken headlight, etc. You also need to replace your tires every five years or so. Four new, high-quality tires cost about $600. You should set money aside for bigger repairs as well. Also, will you be responsible for taxes? Registration fees? And the big one: insurance? Make sure you factor these things into your budget as well.

Driving it home

It’s not all paperwork and finances—shopping for your first car will be a fun experience too. Soon enough you will be test driving, checking out stereo systems, and deciding whether you’d look best in cobalt blue or fire engine red. And it just happens to be a buyer’s market, which makes this an ideal time to be a first-time shopper. There are a lot of cars out there, and you are guaranteed to see plenty that you love and can afford.

Websites you need to know

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  • Consumer Reports (
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  • Kelley Blue Book (
  • Yahoo! Autos (

There is a lot of excitement behind buying a car for the first time. From choosing your future ride to driving it home, there is much to look forward to. However, it’s important to keep in mind that when buying a car for the first time, it can be an involved process. There are many considerations when choosing your new ride, such as, “What’s the best car for me?” and “How will I afford buying a car?”

When buying a car for the first time, make sure to configure expenses into the budget for after the car is purchased. Costs such as maintenance, registration, and insurance will be involved. Choosing the right insurance after buying a car for the first time is important to protect your new wheels against other drivers. Protect your investment by making sure you’re covered for all incidents that may occur.  If you have any questions about buying a car for the first time, or about buying insurance to protect your new car, contact the professionals at TJ Woods Insurance Agency in Worcester, Massachusetts. We are happy to help you protect your investment after buying a car for the first time.