How to Purchase an Affordable Car

When searching for a car, patience is key.
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A car is a big investment that requires both diligent research and steadfast bargaining. To find a vehicle that is both reliable and affordable, investigate all of your options and don’t be afraid to stand by what you want. There are several resources and strategies you can utilize to find a car that fulfills your needs at a price you can afford.

Do Your Homework

Once you have decided the kind of vehicle you are looking for, research all of the options in that class. If you are looking for a minivan, for example, research all of the minivan makes and models. Rule out any vehicles with a factory sticker price above your price point and draft a short list of the viable contenders. Check publications such as Consumer Reports and see what industry experts have to say about the cars on your list. If you have a friend or family member who owns any of the cars on your shortlist, ask how she likes the vehicle and any issues she has encountered with the car. Ask if you can test-drive the vehicle. You may have a better understanding of how you feel about the car if you can drive it without being pressured by a salesperson.

Choosing a Dealership

Researching dealerships is almost as important as choosing the type of car you want to buy. Avoid dealerships that have bad reputations and are known to be too aggressive or unyielding bargainers. Ask friends and consult blogs to find a group of trustworthy dealerships you are willing to visit.

Search the Web

A brick-and-mortar dealership is not your only option. There are several Internet sites that sell vehicles online at rates far below market. As with anything you buy online, there is always a risk of buying sight unseen. Investigate the integrity of the website or the vendor by consulting others who have used the site or worked with the salesperson. If you decide to buy a car online, factor in the cost of vehicle delivery.

Competitive Bidding

Start the negotiation process over the phone. Call at least five salespeople and ask for a price quote. Use the various bids to focus your efforts on the most competitive offers and to initiate the competitive bidding process. Car dealers would rather give you a great rate than lose your business to a competitor. Some sellers will not want to give you a bid over the phone. Be persistent and if the seller continues to refuse, let him or her know that without a bid, your business will be lost.

Ask Questions

The car buying process is an intimidating one; stay focused and professional and ensure you have all of the facts before making a purchase. Always call the seller and ask about mileage, features, the car’s external and internal condition, forecasted repairs and its collision history. If the answers are not to your standards, you’ve saved time and money by determining a car is unsuitable without having even seen it.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency can greatly contribute to or distract from the affordability of a car. A low-cost truck that is a gas-guzzler may not be such a good bargain in the end. Inquire about the size of the vehicle’s tank and the miles the car gets per gallon before determining if the car is one you can afford.


Although you may be uncomfortable haggling, you have little to lose by making a low offer. Start with an offer that’s less than what you're willing to pay and move up from there. Note any flaws or equipment problems to justify your lowball bid. If the dealer won’t budge, don’t crumble under pressure and pay more. You can always walk away.


Many car sellers are experienced negotiators and the more you spend the more they make. Don’t get distracted by flashy luxury vehicles that are outside your price range or unnecessary expensive features. Stay cool under pressure and don’t cater to your impulses.


The terms of your financing agreement could greatly affect the ultimate cost of the car. Compare the interest rates at various financial institutions, such as banks, credit unions and loan companies, in addition to the rates of various dealerships. Pay close attention to the length of the loan. A shorter loan means higher monthly payments, but less money paid overall. If you have poor credit, a dealer may be willing to work with you, but at a much higher interest rate.

Your Trade-In

Before trading in your car, research its value. Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and the CR Used Car Price Report are all helpful resources. You can present the dealer with the prices of comparable quality cars being sold in your area after checking online car sale sites and classifieds. You can also ask other dealers for a bid on your used car to ensure you’re getting a competitive bid. If the dealer won’t give you an offer you’re comfortable with, don’t feel pressured to trade in your car. You can always sell it on your own.

Extended Service Contracts

If you are buying a new car, or one with a long manufacturer's warranty, you may not need an extended service contract. If you are interested in purchasing an extended service contract, shop around. If you buy your car at one Toyota dealership, the warranty at a different Toyota dealership may cost less. Before signing the contract, check that the contract company is financially sound and the terms are favorable, and discuss any hidden fees.

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