Nine Steps to Getting the Car You Want

Jul 18, 2018 ​

Couple shopping for a car loan

For most people, buying a vehicle is likely to be one of the largest purchases made in a lifetime. By taking the time to properly plan and prepare for buying a car, you can save yourself hundreds or thousands of dollars. Check out these money-savvy steps, plus how to avoid potholes on the road to getting that new set of wheels:

1. Figure Out What You Can Afford

Complete a spending plan. You can play with the numbers to see how different transportation expenses would fit into your monthly expenses. You can then plug that monthly number into Nusenda’s auto payment calculator to see how much of a total vehicle price you can afford.

2. Monitor Your Credit

Review your credit reports. To ensure the accuracy of the reports and pinpoint areas that may need work, use the credit bureaus’ annual credit report service to get free copies of your reports at If you’d like a certified credit coach to review your reports, Nusenda partners with BALANCESM to provide this service at no charge to you.

3. Find the Right Car for You

Think about how you will use the vehicle. Will you be using it to cross snow-covered mountain passes with hairpin turns and thousand foot drops, or will you be using your vehicle for something more challenging, like chauffeuring your children? Next, pay special attention to the safety and reliability ratings. No car meets your needs when it’s up on blocks next to the garage or puts you in harm’s way. Get the latest information on reliability and conveniently shop online by using Nusenda’s complimentary AutoSMART service.

4. Consider New vs. Used, Buying vs. Leasing, and Down Payment Amount

Once you’ve found the model you like and what you can afford, it’s time to consider how to buy it. Some shoppers prefer the negligible wear-and-tear and increased reliability of a new vehicle, even if it means the value may drop sharply in the first few years. Others would rather let someone else take on depreciation by going with a used vehicle, but take the risk of not fully knowing the car’s condition and history. It’s then time to figure out if you would rather buy or lease the vehicle. If the idea of always driving a new car matters more to you than likely saving money in the long run, leasing might be an option to consider. Finally, determine your down payment — having one can help you get qualified for a loan, get a better interest rate, a lower monthly payment, a more expensive car for the same monthly payment, or build equity more quickly. All these decisions are highly personal choices — Nusenda can help you smoothly maneuver these twists and turns.

5. Get Financing

Just like you shop around for a good deal on a car, also shop around for the best deal on financing. It’s best to arrange a vehicle loan before you go to the dealership – you’ll have a lot to think about when you are on-site, test-driving, negotiating a price, and so on. Having financing in your back pocket when you arrive makes decision-making simpler. Applying for a loan is easy, using Nusenda’s online application process.

6. Contact Dealers and Check Quality During Test Drives

Creating a comparison chart helps keep track of all the attributes that matter most to you and how each vehicle stacks up. Then, head online or visit dealers to comparison shop. Start looking at particular models and add the prices of each to your comparison chart so you know where you stand financially. On site, do test drives and check vehicle histories; pay special attention to the transmission, shocks, brakes, and alignment. If you aren’t sure what to look or listen for, invite a more experienced driver along on the test drive. Nusenda has great relationships with preferred dealers throughout Albuquerque — check out the list here.

7. Get the Best Price on the Car

Do your research to find out what the model you want is going for. Our partners at AutoSMART can help you track the average price of vehicles and rebates or incentives available, and gives you free access to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

Negotiate each piece of the deal separately. Beware of salespeople who roll the different components of the transaction (purchase price, financing, trade-in, extras) into one deal, or who make an offer in one area of the deal that sounds too good to be true.

And it’s OK to walk away if you are not happy with the deal. You know what you can afford and ultimately you control this transaction, so be confident and let the salesperson know what you want — and walk away if they can’t deliver.

8. Know your Legal Responsibilities

When you get a car that’s new to you, your auto insurance needs will probably change, too. First, talk to your lender about insurance requirements they have, then connect with your insurance company to make sure the mandatory coverage fits your budget.

Talk with the auto dealer, or contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make sure you have the proper license plate stickers or any other items that might be necessary to register your new car.

And know what to do if you can’t make your car payment. The worst possible thing to do is avoid your lender. Instead, work to avoid repossession by staying in contact and asking about hardship programs.

9. Put Yourself in a Position to Financially Succeed Long-Term

Lastly, use this opportunity to think about ways to be financially savvy. Consider how to get more out of the gas you buy, like using the air conditioning sparingly and removing heavy items from the trunk.

Think about all the ways you could get a better deal on insurance, like improving your credit score, buying a used car instead of a new one, and avoiding 4-wheel drive and high-performance cars, which bring higher premiums.

Unexpected expenses have a way of popping up in life and vehicles can be a major source of these. Establish an emergency savings account to be prepared.

Avoid These Potholes in the Car-Buying Process

  • The percentage of your available credit limit you use makes up 30% of your credit score. Pay down your credit card balances at least a month before you apply for an auto loan to be in the running for a lower interest rate.
  • A relative or friend can co-sign on a vehicle loan with you to help you qualify, but be aware that if you miss payments on the vehicle loan at any point, it will hurt that person’s credit too.
  • While a lower monthly payment on a lease may sound attractive, make sure you know the mileage restrictions, since these may conflict with how you plan to use the vehicle.
  • Zero percent financing from a dealer on a vehicle loan sounds fantastic, but know that the dealer will be looking to make that money up elsewhere, like in the purchase price of the vehicle.

Here at Nusenda, we’re ready to help you make smart financial choices for all the things that happen in your life. Visit us online, give us a call, or stop by a branch — we’ll customize a financial plan that works best for you.

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