couple buying car from dealership

You’re finally ready to do it. You’re finally ready to buy your first car. The only problem is, the process is a little intimidating to you. 

For this reason, you’ve come to this article, hoping that it could clear up some of your concerns. We’ve got news for you: that’s exactly what it’s about to do. Without further ado, here’s how to buy your first car. 

Set a Budget

When buying a car, it’s imperative that you set a budget. Failure to set a budget could result in you spending a great deal more than you truly want to spend. If you finance your vehicle, this could set you back financially for years to come. 

While there are all sorts of suggestions as to how much one should spend on a vehicle, a general rule indicates that vehicle-related expenses should comprise around 15% of one’s total take-home pay. Therefore, if you make $2,000 after taxes, you should spend no more than $300 a month on your vehicle loan and necessary repairs. 

Of course, every situation is different. If you have other forms of debt, you might need to spend a little less. The key is to ensure that you can pay for your vehicle throughout the duration of its corresponding auto loan. 

Get Pre-approved for a Loan

Once you’ve set your budget, you need to get an idea as to the type of interest rate that you can expect in an auto loan. You can do this by getting pre-approved for a loan with your bank.

While this step isn’t entirely necessary, it will provide you with a bit of leverage when you’re haggling with the dealership’s financing representative. For instance, if the financing representative offers nothing lower than a 5% interest rate, but your bank pre-approved you for a 4.2% interest rate, you can use your pre-approval to secure lower-interest financing from the dealership.  

This is important, as your interest rate will directly affect the amount of car you can buy. The lower your interest rate, the lower your monthly payment for a given car. 

Start Searching

After you’ve secured your pre-approval, you can get out there and start searching for a car. Cars can be found everywhere these days. Not only can you search for them in-person but online as well. 

Start by scouring listings on sites such as,, and These sites will show you cars in your area, and will even allow you to filter them based on your desired characteristics. 

If you find any leads on these sites, you should follow them. If not, you should start taking trips to your local dealerships and used car lots. They could very well have vehicles available that you weren’t able to find online. 

Inspect the Vehicle Thoroughly

You’ve made your way to your local dealership and have spotted a car that you like. Now, it’s time to determine whether it’s worth its cost. To make this determination, you’re going to have to give it a close inspection. 

Not only should you look for signs of cosmetic deterioration, but you should also check under the hood to assess whether the vehicle’s components are in sturdy condition.

If you aren’t able to make this determination on your own (most aren’t), you should bring the vehicle to an independent mechanic. He or she can inspect the vehicle, informing you of any problems it might possess. 

Take it for a Test Drive 

In addition to giving your prospective vehicle a visual inspection, you’re going to want to take it out on the road as well. This way, you can determine whether you feel comfortable driving it, and establish whether or not it possesses any functional problems. 

When taking your test drive, you should assess everything from acceleration to braking capabilities to steering wheel responsiveness and the like. If anything seems off-kilter with the vehicle, you should think twice about buying it. 

Make sure to drive the vehicle on both city roads and highways. While the vehicle may operate fine at low and moderate speeds, it could present problems at high speeds. 

Get the Loan Worked Out 

You’ve had the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic. You’ve taken it out on the road for a test drive. You’ve decided: it’s the right vehicle for you. 

Now, it’s time to get the loan worked out. Generally speaking, car financing is handled by the buyer and the dealership’s financing representative. Often times, it includes haggling over the specifics of the deal. 

Not only should you haggle over monthly payments, but over additional fees as well. In some cases, dealers will drop these additional charges to ensure that the buyer closes the deal. So, if you’re looking to save as much money as possible, contesting these fees is worth a try. 

Register the Vehicle 

Once you’ve closed the deal on the car, you’ll have to register it. If you’re buying your car from a dealer, the dealer will likely handle the process for you. 

On the other hand, if you’re buying from a private seller, you’ll have to register your vehicle yourself. This will include a trip to the DMV or BMV and will necessitate that you pay a fee. 

In some states, your vehicle is legally required to pass an inspection. If it doesn’t pass inspection, it can’t be driven on the road. 

Now That You Know How to Buy Your First Car…

Now that you know how to buy your first car, you might be looking for other auto-related information. If so, you’re in the right place. Go Motors is the web’s go-to spot for all things automotive. 

We cover everything from car buying to car selling to automotive components to repair and more. Browse our selection of other articles now!