Alright, now that the dust has settled from my accident, I’m well aware of my situation. The confusion and frustration have subsided and it’s time to put together a plan of action. Some people think car shopping sounds fun. I am not one of these people. It is a daunting endeavor under the best of circumstances. Just thinking about navigating my way through performance reviews, safety ratings, available packages and finding the best auto loan in Madison, starts to quickly raise my stress level. I have to find a car that’s in my price range, affordable, has good gas mileage. And I have to find a dealer that will sell me one without all the hassle and pushiness we’ve all come to know and “love.” Not to mention I might have to make a quick decision before the car I want is snatched off the lot! Narrowing things down, and getting a battle plan in place will make this go much, much smoother.
- I’ll start by looking at the numbers and securing my financing. Even if I didn’t already work at Dane County Credit Union, a quick look at all the Madison auto loan options tells me that this area is where DCCU really shines. By reinvesting profits, DCCU offers some of the lowest auto loan rates in Madison, and I can get pre-approved right away. That way I’ll know my budget before shopping. This raises another substantial question in terms of interest: The length of the loan. While asking for the lowest monthly payment available is tempting, I’d be looking at years of additional interest. If I go beyond 42 months I could end up owing more on the loan than the car is worth. Also, I need to reach out to my insurance company for a quote. With a new car, it’s more than likely that I’ll be looking at an increase. (*gulp, more expenses)
- Another key part I’ll want to do is to research specific models, narrowing it down to two or three choices. I have an idea of what I need already – good gas mileage, affordability, low miles. I’m leaning towards a hatchback but would I consider a wagon? Again, it’s about what will serve me and my lifestyle needs. Reviews are going to be key. I’m looking for reviews that keep mileage, maintenance safety features, and overall performance in mind. Thanks to online sites such as Edmunds, Consumer Reports and Kelly Blue Book, and DCCU’s own Auto Resource Center, I’ll have all the information I need right at my fingertips. I have to admit it’s nice to live in this decade, where auto resource sites and dealership search sites can narrow down what I’m looking for in a matter of seconds. It sure beats hopping from lot to lot over the course of an entire Saturday, only to find that there is nothing there to suit my needs!
- After that will be the fun part: test drives! It’ll be smart and go to more than a few dealers. I’ll be sure to take the vehicles I’m interested in out for a longer drive as opposed to only 10-15 minutes around the immediate area. It would be nice to get the car up to speed on the Beltline, and also into a quiet parking lot where I can check the turn radius, rear blind spots while backing, and Y turn capabilities. All these are things I’ve found important in my travels. Heck, I’ll rent it for a day if I can! Maybe make one of my long-haul trips to Milwaukee to test it in a bigger city environment. If I have to keep turning up the radio because the car is so loud, that’s a potential red flag. If there’s a strong smell of cigarette smoke from a previous owner burned into the upholstery, game off. If the rear bumper falls off during a left turn, I’m looking elsewhere.
- To avoid surprises, at this point I will return to my online research and review the charges, packages, and everything else that might be in final paperwork. Thanks to sites such as TrueCar, buyers have total transparency when sorting out the fees on new cars. In this respect I can confidently separate the legitimate dealer fees from the nonessential add-ons that drive up the price tag. Things like rust proofing, automatic parking, extended warranty and VIN etching may be useful but most likely something I can take care of myself and at a substantially reduced cost. Case in point: parallel parking is free (I’m rough but not THAT bad) and DCCU offers an extended mechanical breakdown warranty and GAP protection for far less than a dealer will charge me.
- Of course if I purchase a used car, which is more than likely what will work best for my budget, I’ll be sure to ask about certified pre-owned options that include extended warranties. And don’t forget the Carfax! Many online sites have the fax already provided and in plain view, so you can get a complete vehicle history. (again, no surprises here!) If I hear of a good deal through a co-worker or family friend, I’ll take it to a trusted mechanic for a thorough buyer’s inspection. For a minimal cost, this will give me heads-up on any expensive repairs on the horizon such as timing belt, brakes, or tires. If the seller includes detailed maintenance records, it’s a safe bet the car has been well taken care of.
My next step is to get pre-approved for my auto loan…