Tips & Tricks for Buying a New Car

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There is nothing quite like that new car smell! ICYMI, I recently bought a new Jeep and to say I’m obsessed would be an understatement. I purchased a 2019 Jeep Patriot Altitude and I learned a lot throughout the buying process so I thought it would be helpful [and timely] to do a post on tips for buying a new car.

This is actually the 3rd Jeep I’ve had. My first was a Jeep Patriot [leased] and my second was a Jeep Compass Latitude [parents bought]. Slowly making my way up through the Jeep models! Needless to say, I might be a bit of a girly girl but I’m a Jeep girl at heart!

This truly was my first “big girl purchase” and yes, it got stressful at times but it was one of the most rewarding experiences to finally OWN something. Everyone’s car buying experience is unique but there are some general rules of thumb that everyone should follow. Keep on scrolling to check out some helpful tips & tricks for buying a new car…whether it is your first or 100th!


Before you even think of stepping foot on car dealership lot, do your research first. You want to be well versed on the vehicle(s) you are interested in, features available, buyer incentives going on, MSRP, vehicle ratings…the list goes on and on.

There are TONS of places you can look to find all of this information including Kelley Blue Book (KBB), Consumer Reports, US News and the dealership site itself. I find it helpful to print out any information that you’ll want to reference throughout the process and highlight key items like features, pricing, estimated trade-in value, etc. Put it all in a folder to keep things organized and if you’re looking at multiple vehicle makes/models, maybe even consider a small tabbed binder.

When I purchased my Jeep, I knew I was looking to trade-in my current vehicle so I went to KBB and put in my vehicle information to get a range on the value that it was worth. I went through Consumer Reports with my dad to see how the vehicle I was interested in was ranked and what other options were out there similar to it. I also went directly to the manufacturer site and “built” different versions of the vehicle online I was interested in to see what pricing was. This helped me decide what features were considered my must-haves and what things I was willing to be more flexible on.

Going in to the car buying process with some background knowledge helps you to feel more confident in your decisions and you can speak more eloquently to the sales representative about your needs, getting the best bang for your buck.


I can’t stress how important it is to be realistic with your budget on what you can afford for a new car. There is no point in being “car poor” just so you can have the fanciest of vehicles…yet it’s putting you into serious debt. This is where your monthly budget comes into play. Really take a look at your current expenses [fixed and variable] and do the math to see what you can realistically afford. It can be helpful to have a range in mind instead of one specific number, too.

Outside of seeing what you are able to afford on a monthly basis, you also want to see if you will be putting anything down upfront on the car. Whether it’s $200 or $2,000, as I’ve said before, every little bit counts! Putting money down on your vehicle automatically helps to lower that principal balance on the vehicle, same idea as when we talked about it for college loans.

Tips & Tricks for Buying a New Car -- The Life She Wanders


No matter how in love you are with the look of a vehicle and all the fancy features, always do a test drive! You want to make sure it has a smooth ride, you can easily see out of the windows/mirrors, the seats are comfortable, there’s enough space in the trunk, the sound system is clear, you can reach the pedals comfortably, people can actually fit in the back seat, etc, etc. Most dealerships will have a pre-determined test drive route that they’ll take you on but don’t be afraid to ask to go on some different roads and highways so that you can drive the vehicle at many different speeds.

If during the test drive something just seems off or you aren’t comfortable, no matter how much you love the exterior or featured add-ons, the vehicle will not get more comfortable one month or one year from now. You have to be prepared to move on from what you thought was going to be your “it car.”


As I mentioned earlier, one of the most important parts of the car buying process is to do your research ahead of time. It’s important to know what features on the vehicle are your must-have’s, and what ones aren’t. For me when I was in the process, I knew there were a few things that I wasn’t willing to negotiate or budge on. I knew I wanted the two-tone color package [white body with black roof], a sunroof, black accents/rims, and the safety & security package. Other features like the cold weather package, upgraded sound system, and automatic features didn’t make my must-have list. If the vehicle ended up having them, great! If not, I was not concerned.

And to be honest, the more must-haves you have, the more difficult it could be to find the exact vehicle you are looking for. Of course, the dealership can always custom order one from the manufacturer for you but sometimes that depends on the timeline. The hardest part in securing my Jeep was finding one with the two-tone package that had a sunroof. They were finding it in all white or all black with a sunroof, but I knew I wasn’t willing to budge on the two-tone package. It doesn’t make you picky or stuck-up, you just know what you want! Thankfully they ended up finding one and it did come with a few of the non-essential features that have ended up being great bonuses [at a price of course!].

Tips & Tricks for Buying a New Car -- The Life She Wanders


Knowing your timeline is key! You want to make sure you buy before you need, but don’t buy too soon. You’re probably like, “what the heck does that mean?!” Basically, you don’t want to end up in a situation where your car dies on you and now you have nothing. If you are thinking of trading in your vehicle, the less mileage and wear & tear it has, the more it will be worth. So if you are thinking of getting a new vehicle and know you will want to trade-in, start running some numbers to see the value.

For me, my old Jeep was still in really great condition but was starting to get up there in mileage where you get to that point of “do I put more money into it, or get something new.” After talking it over a lot with my parents, getting something new seemed like the smartest decision, especially because of the estimated trade-in value I was going to get.

As I mentioned before, it took the dealership some time to locate the exact vehicle I was looking for. Then, unfortunately, the vehicle was stuck at the border in Mexico thanks to the oompa loompa in office [yup, I said it!]. Thankfully for me, I wasn’t in the situation where I needed the vehicle right at that very moment and had wiggle room in my timeline so there was no issue in having to wait. All in all, it took about a 4-5 weeks from the time they located the vehicle until it got through the border and to the dealership.


Remember, buying a new car is a business transaction and you SHOULD negotiate! You want to make sure you negotiate on the purchase price NOT the monthly payment. Thankfully in my case I had my dad with me so I didn’t feel as awkward negotiating. Our family has also worked with this sales representative numerous times before so we were both familiar and comfortable with each other.

When reviewing the contract and purchasing price with the representative, they came back with the trade-in value, friends & family discount, and all that jazz and had come to a final purchase price for the vehicle. I ended up negotiating for more of a round number and basically said “if you can do this price, I’ll sign right now.” It was a win-win for everyone! So stick to your guns and again, don’t be afraid to walk away if you aren’t able to agree on terms.


The easiest way for dealerships and sales representatives to make money on the sale of a vehicle is buy selling you on all these fancy sounding add-ons or an extended warranty. Don’t fall for it! Most new vehicles come with a warranty in place, and even if you’re looking at a used vehicle, the warranty is still usually in place. So don’t fall for the extended warranty because it is not needed and you’ll just end up paying more money in the long run that wasn’t necessary. On the add-ons side, these include things like a super clear coat that avoids rust or an undercoating; Ziebart is known for these add-ons. Basically, you don’t need these and they have to be done every year…so that’s more money out of your pocket and into theirs.

They typically try to rope you in buy saying now is the only chance you’ll have to get these add-ons. They are in the sales business, it’s part of their job…but again, don’t fall for it. I made it clear from the beginning when reviewing all of the financials that I was not interested in anyway in the add-ons or extended warranty so they could skip right over that. It saved them time because they didn’t have to explain it all when I knew I wasn’t interested.

Tips & Tricks for Buying a New Car -- The Life She Wanders


Be sure to ask your sales representative about any incentives currently going on. Manufacturers offer them at various times throughout the year, making it a great time for you to buy and save money. In some cases, if you finance through the manufacturer, there is an additional incentive. In my case, there was a $1,000 incentive for financing through Chrysler Capital plus a few other incentives given the timing of when I was buying. With 2020 vehicles being released soon, the dealerships/manufacturers are looking to get rid of current models so there are typically some great purchasing incentives. Yes, a brand new 2020 would have been super fancy but getting money off the purchase price because I went with a new 2019 10000000% worked for me!

If you’ve purchased or leased vehicles from the dealership you’re working with in the past, don’t be afraid to ask about a friends & family discount. As we’ve discussed with budgeting and saving, every little bit counts! This was the 3rd Jeep I was getting from this dealership and my family had purchased and leased numerous vehicles from them as well, so because we had such an established relationship with them and were returning customers, I received a friends & family discount. Each dealership is probably unique and has an established percentage that they will take off the purchase price.


I talked about this above with my own purchasing experience. It was a financially smarter decision for me to purchase a 2019 with the incentives being offered because of the 2020’s being released soon. Most manufacturers only make small tweaks and changes to a vehicle from year to year, though sometimes a full overhaul and redesign does happen. Dealerships also want to make room on their lot for those brand new vehicles so it’s an incentive for them to offer deals to clear their lot.


This ties back to that very first step I mentioned of doing your research. Sites like KBB allow you to put in the make, model, features, mileage and condition of the vehicle you are looking to trade-in. It will then pump out a trade-in value range for your vehicle. It is super helpful to have this information on hand so that you can better negotiate with the sales representative in person, and see if the value they are offering is on target. It’s also important to remain realistic here and be honest with the true condition of your vehicle so that you get the most accurate trade-in estimate.

Tips & Tricks for Buying a New Car -- The Life She Wanders

So who is ready to buy a new car now?! That was a ton of information but I hope you found it super helpful and is something you can use as a resource now or down the road when you’re in the market for a new car! Do you have any do’s or don’ts for buying a new car? If so, share below in the comments!