5 Things to Do Before You Go Car Shopping

Sponsored Post: This post is sponsored by Cars.com, but the opinions expressed are my own.


Have you bought a new (or new to you) car recently?  What was your experience like?  Let’s face it, buying a car is a big deal!  For most of us, buying a car is the only time (outside of buying a home or getting student loans) that we sign on to spend thousands of dollars at once.  I don’t know about you, but when I spend that kind of money, I want to be prepared and I want the experience to be a pleasant one.

My husband and I bought a car last spring and it was our first time buying from a dealership, getting a car loan, etc.  Always before we would buy decent cars, but ones that would cost just a few thousand dollars that we could pay cash for.  We have reached a point in life though, where we wanted to be able to hop into a car and drive it across the country if we wanted to without worry about its reliability.  Anyway, I have always heard nightmares stories about car shopping and it taking full days and the negotiation process being overwhelming.  I really had no intention of having this kind of experience so I planned in advance.  I took care of several things before we even headed out shopping for a car and that made all the difference in the world and I can honestly say that our car buying experience was a pleasant one.

If you want to have the same kind of experience, here are 5 Things to Do Before You Go Car Shopping:

  1. Determine what kind of car you want.  Honestly, we had no intention of wandering through car lots looking at different cars for days on end.  We have children and frankly, that just doesn’t sound fun to me.  We decided in advance what kind of car we wanted by doing research on reliability, space, fuel economy and whether or not we liked the look of it.  We decided to go with a Camry.
  2. Get pre-approved.  Whether you go through your bank or credit union or another finance company, I cannot tell you enough how important it is to get pre-approved for your vehicle before you even shop for one.  First of all, you want to know you can afford it.  Second, the finance part is a breeze if you walk in with your financing paperwork in hand rather than having the dealership do it for you.  *Always tell the dealership that you have pre-approval and you DO NOT want them to run your credit.  (Car dealers are notorious for putting several hard inquiry hits on your credit report.)
  3. Shop online. Cars.com is an awesome website for car shopping online.  You can search for the year, make and model of the vehicle you are looking for and you can also dictate price and mileage caps.   We ended up finding the car we were going to buy this way.
  4. Negotiate over the phone or email.  Before we ever went to the dealership, I spent a little bit of time on the phone with the salesperson negotiating our price.  I then moved the conversation to text messages so that I had our final number in writing.
  5. Test Drive.  Although we were confident we were going to buy the car we had been negotiating on (2016 Camry), we had still never driven one, so my husband and I both spent time behind the wheel during a test drive so that we knew we liked it before we signed on the dotted line.


I really did follow these tips to a T and we were in and out of that dealership within 35 minutes.  The car buying process wasn’t so bad after all.