New: Update on current car buying climate
1. Research vehicles and features.
2. Get preapproved for a loan.
3. Plan your trade-in.
4. Locate and test-drive the car.
5. Check sale price and warranties.
6. Review the deal and dealer financing.
7. Close the deal.
8. Take delivery.
Summer 2022 update: The ongoing semiconductor chip shortage and consequent vehicle shortage have caused prices for both new and used cars to hit record highs.
"Shrunken inventory continues to wreak havoc on both the new and used vehicle markets," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights "Shoppers who can actually get their hands on a vehicle are committing to never-before-seen average payments and loan terms."
As a result, car shoppers today face a limited selection and price hikes from either dealer-added (often non-negotiable) accessories or "market adjustments." Discounts of any sort are scarcer than the cars themselves, leaving buyers with no negotiating power. If you don't like the price of a car, the dealership is betting the next person will. This leads to a greater sense of urgency to make a quick decision on a deal since the car may not be there if you go home to think about it.
These are far from normal times in terms of both the selection of cars available and the lack of discounts you may encounter. If you need a new vehicle today, we suggest starting your shopping process sooner rather than later, as analysts predict that the chipset shortage will likely affect pricing and inventory through this year and into 2023.
If you're shopping for a new or used car in today's difficult marketplace, please see "Car Buying Tips for 2022" for our experts' targeted, data-driven advice. Note that the article below was originally written before the chip shortage, back when vehicle prices were relatively stable and predictable. If the shortages continue, there may not be a so-called "best time to buy" for the foreseeable future. The best time in the current market is when you find a dealer that has the vehicle you want and is willing to sell it to you at MSRP or better, without any additional options that you may not need.
That said, many of the major elements of this story still ring true. You'll still need to research the car you want, get preapproved for a loan, and know how to handle the transaction.
Buying a new car is a big step, but it doesn't have to be a daunting one. Here's how to research, locate, price and negotiate to buy your new car. Smartphones make these steps easier than ever. It is now entirely possible for a buyer to shop for a vehicle while in line at the supermarket or waiting to pick up the kids.
This list explores the steps a buyer would take to purchase a new car. If you're looking to save more money and purchase a used car, the steps will differ slightly, which we cover in the article "How to Buy a Used Car in 10 Steps."
These eight steps could save you thousands of dollars on your next car. They'll also make the process at the dealer quicker and stress-free. Let's begin.