If you’ve recently received a sizeable tax refund, one thing you might want to think about doing with this sudden influx of cash is to invest in a new car. Newer cars have great gas mileage, amazing technologically advanced features, and safety improvements that can make an enormous difference if you get into a crash. If you’ve been driving an older car for a long time and frequently have to put money into repairs, maintenance, and replacement parts, it’s probably past time you got a new car. In the long run, it could end up saving you a lot of money. Some people hang on to their old cars for a long time because they just can’t stand the hassle and headache of shopping for a new car. If that describes you, take heart! Car shopping can be easier and less stressful than you ever imagined if you just do your homework, plan ahead, and approach it with confidence. Here are a few tips that can make your next car purchasing experience go a lot more smoothly.

1. Choose the car you want

Figure out what kind of car you need based on your driving habits, cargo-carrying needs, and family size. You can then use auto blogs, online car guides, and recommendations from friends and family to help you determine the right make and model for you. Narrowing it down to a few choices will make the shopping process a lot simpler. Many online sites have helpful comparison tools for pricing, specifications, and features. If you’re buying a family car, make sure it has enough room, up to date safety features, and the hardware necessary to install a car seat correctly.

2. Compare prices

Use sites like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, and other guides to find out how much you should expect to be paying for the car you want. Visit multiple dealerships to try and find the best value, and don’t be afraid to try to talk them down if you know they’re asking for more than the car is really worth.

3. Get financing first

If possible, get yourself pre-approved for an auto loan from your bank before you go to the dealership. Your bank will usually offer better rates and terms than the lender that the dealership will want you to use. You also will have the flexibility to take your loan to whatever dealership you want to do business with.

4. Make the most of your test drive

The test drive is your chance to ensure that you really feel comfortable driving the car you’re interested in. You want to verify that it handles the way you want it to, that the seats feel nice, the dashboard components are easy to see and operate, and that driving it “feels right” to you.

The best way to have an easy and successful car buying process is to take time beforehand to learn exactly what you want to buy and how much you’re willing to pay for it. Follow those guidelines and it doesn’t have to be difficult at all.

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