Disclaimer: A big thank you to Caitlin Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, for being a cash sponsor of this post filled with car shopping tips for single moms.
All opinions expressed are my own.
Car shopping is a daunting task, even for the most experienced of car shoppers. But there are ways to make the experience a little bit more enjoyable and actually leave with what you want while staying within your price range. These tips can work for anyone and have always worked for me in the past.
1. Decide What You Want and What You Can Afford.
As a single mom, you live within a budget. There is no decision about that – you have to make sure that you can afford all of the expenses, including your vehicle, as you have more than yourself to consider – you have a child that is fully dependent on you to provide them with all their needs.
Do you have young children? Older children? Do you travel a lot? Is cargo space a necessity? You have some options from looking at your must-haves and nice-to-haves, now narrow it down even further after defining what is best for your family.
So don’t be selfish…it’s great to know what you want but choose something that you can actually afford, while keeping a roof over your head and meals on the table.
2. Write down your must-haves and your nice-to-haves.
Now that you know what you want and what you can afford, decide on the specifics – price, manufacturer, model, used or new – come up with a few options and write everything out. Visit a car show and sit in a couple of cars and see if you like the colors and the options. Even if you’re not trying to buy a new car, many of the features exist in older models.
3. Do your research.
Search on the Internet at websites such as Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com), Edmunds.com, Consumer Reports, etc. and read some reviews about the cars that you are interested in. Review the safety options and fuel economy. You don’t want to be stuck with a gas guzzler, where you’re unable to pay for the cost of gas. Consider potential increases in the cost of gas and determine if you could still pay for it.
Speak to your family and friends – find out if they know someone with that car or if they have had that car in the past. Learn more about their experiences and decide if the vehicle is still for you.
4. Contact your local bank or credit union.
You may or may not know this already, but you can get much better interest rates from your local bank or credit union. Don’t wait to get financing through your dealership – you can get more car if you go through your bank or credit union. Also, you can have a better idea of what you can spend on a vehicle before you walk into the dealership.
5. Consider the cost of insurance.
This one is very important – I have personally failed to do this in a previous vehicle purchase. You would not believe how much more you can pay for one vehicle versus another. Some factors that impact your insurance rates include new/used, color, safety features, sticker price, and potential maintenance costs. Consider the cost of your insurance on top of the monthly car payment before making your purchase. Also, consider the discounts that would reduce your insurance bill – shop around and find out where you can get the best deal.
6. Consider potential maintenance costs.
What is the size of the tires? What is the average cost per tire? How much will it cost for an oil change, tire rotation, or wheel alignment? How much does a battery cost for this vehicle? You should definitely consider the potential maintenance costs, especially in the case that you are purchasing a used car. If you’re considering a new car, find out the length of the warranty and what it will cover. It would be horrible to buy a car with a warranty, only to find out that it doesn’t cover any major malfunctions.
7. Avoid taking your children to the dealership.
Buying a car is a major purchase and one that requires all of your attention. It is important to do this without distractions. My son is extremely active and most of the time, I would have to chase him through the dealership even when I’m just going for an oil change. Therefore, I try to handle any large purchases while he is with his father, ask one of my friends to watch him for a few hours, or I take advantage of weekdays while he is in school to handle any large purchases.
8. Bring support with you.
If you are an eager and excitable person when you see the car of your dreams on the lot (like me), bring a no-nonsense, knowledgeable person with you that can bring you back down to the earth. In the past, I have done all of the research and knew what I wanted, then arrived at the dealership and saw the car of my dreams. I literally could see the sunset in the background and the car shining above it all. And I bought that vehicle without following any of my tips and ended up paying much more than I anticipated. So, don’t follow my example, bring someone with you that keep you focused and on track.
9. Don’t buy on your first visit.
You’ve probably heard other people say this, but it is the honest truth – don’t buy on your first visit to the dealership. Take your time and look at the vehicles that you are interested in, test drive a few of them, get some information from the salesman, then head home and sleep on it. Buyer’s remorse is a real thing and you don’t want to make a hasty decision and then have buyer’s remorse the next day. There will be nothing you can do about it then. But if you take your time and decide, then you’ll feel better about the purchase.
10. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.
Negotiate as much as you can – find out about incentives and deals on the dealership’s and manufacturer’s websites. Find the best deal for the vehicle of choice and find the dealership that will provide you with those deals. Haggle a little, it doesn’t hurt.