Check Out These Tips & Member Benefits.
September is a great month to consider buying a car, and remains one of the most popular months for new car purchases. As new models hit the showrooms, manufacturers often offer some of the year’s best deals to move out the older inventory to make way for the new. As a AAA member, we want to help you get the right vehicle for your needs, and we have a lot of resources to help.
If you’re considering buying a new (or new to you) vehicle, here are a few tips to help guide your decision:
Determine What Works for Your Budget
Before considering any specific makes or models, first sit down with the household budget and determine what is affordable before visiting a car lot. AAA’s financial services experts advise that no more than 15 percent to 20 percent of your total monthly budget should go to all car-related expenses. Consider how much a trade-in is worth and how much savings you want to put towards the vehicle. Investigate financing options available to you before going to a dealership. Speak to a AAA insurance agent or another agency to get a rough estimate of premiums on the type of vehicle being considered. Take time to sit down and crunch the numbers to determine how much can be comfortably afforded without overextending (check out our auto loan payment calculator).
Tip: If you haven’t explored the insurance benefits AAA offers, now is a great time. AAA agents can help you shop with various insurance companies and get you exclusive policy discounts, including up to 15% your policy just for being a member!
Evaluate Driving Habits & Needed Features
Take a realistic look at how the vehicle will be used. What types of trips will it be used for most frequently? How many passengers will the vehicle need to carry? Will the vehicle be shared with other drivers? How long of a commute will it be used for? Make a list of all required features the new vehicle should include, being careful separate ‘wants’ from ‘needs.’ When making the list, do not just think about needs today, but look several years down the road. Could children be in the future? Could the commute lengthen? Thinking through questions like this will help you get the right vehicle that you’ll be happy with for years to come.
Investigate Safety Ratings
Check the safety ratings of all models under consideration from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Evaluate the safety features available on each model. If using a car seat for a child, check out if it is easy to access the vehicle’s LATCH system and installation of a car seat.
Tip: If you purchase a new car and will be using a car seat, AAA Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians are available to help ensure car seats are properly installed. The Car Seat Check Program is a free service to help educate and improve child passenger safety.
Consider Depreciation Costs
The biggest yearly expense to new cars is depreciation. Research how much models being considered depreciate within the first few years and consider a model that has a track record of holding its value longer.
New or New to You
Look at pricing options for both new vehicles, as well as models that are one to two years old. There are benefits to both new and slightly used models. New vehicles typically come with longer warranties, buying incentives from the automaker, the latest features and are widely available. Slightly used vehicles might offer a price break, but it can be more difficult to find the ‘perfect’ vehicle with the exact features a buyer is seeking and does not have buying incentives from the manufacturer.
Tip: If you decide a used car is right for you, it is recommended that you request a detailed vehicle history report. AAA members get a discount on CARFAX® Vehicle History Reports and you’ll received the report within seconds.
Recommendations and Reviews
Ask friends, family and colleagues for feedback on their vehicles. Read both professional reviews, such as those provided by AAA’s Auto Buying experts, as well as feedback from current owners of the models being considered. These can often be found on web forums.
Review Maintenance Costs
Investigate the maintenance costs associated with the car by reviewing its recommended maintenance schedule and pricing out the cost of several of the regularly needed maintenance items. If you consistently use the same auto repair shop and have a relationship with one, such as a AAA Car Care Plus or AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, you should talk to them about maintenance costs to see if maintenance and repairs would be similar to the current vehicle or different due to special types of fluids, parts or other items required to work on the car.
Don’t Limit Your Choice to One Vehicle
Narrow the choices down to two or three vehicles that meet all of your criteria. By allowing flexibility, buyers have more negotiating room and a better chance of finding the best possible price.