5 Tips for Buying a New or Used Car

5 Tips for Buying a New or Used Car

Original content posted on KTRS 550 Lifestyle blog.
Authored by Chief Community Relations Officer, Pier Alsup.

Buying a car doesn’t have to be stressful or confusing.  It’s a purchase that many of us will make multiple times in our lives.  It’s not as a “big” as buying a new home, yet it’s not as “small” as buying a new pair of shoes.  Here are some key things to make your purchase – and financing that purchase – a smart decision.

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Your vehicle needs

It’s important to pinpoint the type of car/truck/van you need (versus the type you want!).

 Do you need seating for 2 or for 5?  Do you need cargo space for large items like a golf bags?  Do you need an MP3 and phone charging jack?  Do you need all wheel drive?

Your total cost of ownership

Knowing the initial purchase is just the beginning, when it comes to affording a vehicle.   Once you drive off the lot, you need to consider:

  • Maintenance costs such as oil changes, car washes, and wiper blades and wiper fluid

  • Fuel

  • Insurance

  • Repairs, such as a new windshield or new tires

  • License

  • Sales tax and personal property tax

Your budget

It is important to know how much car you can afford before visiting a dealership online or in person. Focus on the overall purchase + ownership cost … not just the monthly payment.

Your credit score

This is a big one— knowing if your credit report is in order, and most importantly, knowing your score.  Much like buying a house, check your credit report before car shopping.  If there are any mistakes on your report, get them corrected as quick as possible.  The better your credit score, the lower the interest rate on your auto loan.

You’re pre-approved

It can be less stressful when you have your financing approved before shopping—and it’s easier to negotiate the final purchase of your vehicle, purchasing from a dealership or an individual. It keeps the buying process focused on the car purchase.


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Pier’s Tips:

Do your research online first

  • Understand all of the fees the dealer charges

  • Understand the warranty and understand extended warranties. Know where to purchase the best extended warranty, if needed.

  • Understand if you will need gap insurance? (additional insurance that will pay the “gap” between the value of the car and the balance on your loan should your vehicle be totaled).

You can shop independently for warranties, gap insurance, and roadside service plans.  Take the time to read up, and then do some number crunching before going to the dealership so you’ll understand if the products and plans being offered are a good deal for you.

Get pre-approved for your financing before shopping

Shop on a weekday afternoon versus the weekend when the lots are busier.

Getting a new or a new-to-you vehicle is always fun!  For some of us, it’s every couple years and for others of us, it maybe once every 8 to 10 years.  It’ important to remember not to get caught up in the moment. 


The credit union focuses on financial literacy all year with:

  • Workshops (for adults) – topics including budgeting, home buying and college planning

  • Teaching (for grade school & high school students) – our in-house programs plus with partners such as Junior Achievement

  • Free online suite of tools, calculators, and tutorials

  • Free financial counseling programs, debt management plans and credit report reviews with our partner, GreenPath Financial Wellness.

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