Shopping for a new or new-to-you vehicle is fun and exciting, but it can also be an overwhelming experience. Do you know what make and model you want? Are you looking at new or used cars? Is leasing an option? What are the key features you’re hoping for? What’s on your must-have list? There’s a lot to consider nowadays when taking the leap into buying a vehicle, so where do you start?

How Much Should You Spend?

First and foremost, determine how much you’re comfortable spending and be realistic about it. Dealerships are eagerly waiting for your business, so it’s important to remain firm on your personal budget and what you’re willing and able to spend.

What fits into your budget? How much money, if any, are you planning to put down? You’ll want to take the total purchase price of the vehicle versus the monthly payment into consideration. Keep in mind, the monthly payment shouldn’t be more than 20% of your take home pay.

Shopping for a New or Used Car?

Regardless of whether you’re searching for a new or used car, it’s crucial to research and read reviews. You probably already have something in mind that you’ve had your eye on, so now’s the time to do some homework.

New cars typically come with a higher price tag, but if you can afford it, there are many benefits when buying a brand new car. You’re the vehicle’s first owner, you’re getting the newest features and technology, and the car will likely last longer as long as you keep up with maintenance.

Not sure if you’re ready or willing to take the plunge on a brand new car? Perhaps a used car is more your speed. Used vehicles are often a better value thanks to slower depreciation, saving you money. A used car that has been well taken care of can also last you quite a few years.

When searching for a used car, check on reliability and ownership costs. Choose a car that’s less likely to break down. How many owners has it had? Reference Consumer Reports and J.D. Power as they collect maintenance reports from owners and rate all used cars.

Regardless of whether you decide on a new or a used car, be sure to take it for a test drive. Drive on a route with a little bit of everything—hills, rough pavement, curves, street, and highway. Focus on visibility, acceleration, brakes, and ergonomics. How does the car feel when you’re driving it? Make sure the ins and outs of the car align with your needs and you’re comfortable with the way it rides.

Leasing a Car

Another option aside from buying is leasing.

Before deciding to go this route, you should consider how much you’re realistically planning to drive the car. Most leases limit the yearly mileage on your car, which are most commonly set at 10,000 to 15,000 per year. If you exceed these limits, additional charges will be applied. So if you have a long commute to work or plan to road trip every other weekend, leasing may not be in your best interest.

Here are some other factors to keep in mind when leasing a vehicle:

  • Ownership: You don't actually own the vehicle. Essentially it's yours to borrow for the term you agreed to and you must return it unless you decide to purchase it outright.
  • Monthly payments: Typically the payments are lower, but since you don't own the vehicle, you don't have any equity in it.
  • Up-front costs: You may be immediately responsible for the first month's payment, security deposit, down payment, taxes, registration, and other fees.
  • Wear and tear: If anything exceeds what's considered normal wear and tear, you'll be held accountable for the additional charges.

What Do You Want in a Car? 

Decide what’s most important to you. Cars nowadays are equipped with the latest features and gadgets, but what are the key vehicle features you’re looking for?

  • Safety/Reliability: Sedan or SUV, rear view camera, lane keeping system, perimeter alarm, parking sensors
  • Technology—3D navigation system, XM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adaptive cruise control
  • Exterior—Paint, headlights (automatic daytime, nighttime high beams), wheel/tire packages, towing packages.
  • Interior—Cloth or leather seating, heated seats, heated steering wheel, captain’s seats, available seating, sunroof, inside lighting.
  • Sport—Horsepower, manual transmission, street/track tires.
  • Premium—Bluetooth, chrome appearance, steering assist, vehicle trim.

You should choose the package and features you’re most comfortable with (and what you’ve budgeted). Write out a pros and cons list and think about what you must have and what you can part with.

Ready to Hit the Road?

Pump the brakes! Before you sign and drive off the lot in your new ride, get your financing lined up first with a trustworthy lender, like GOLD. We’re a one-stop shop when it comes to financing your purchase. We’ll get you into your vehicle at an excellent rate with flexible terms that meet your needs. Our rates are the exact same for both used and new vehicles, so be sure to take advantage. Need GAP Insurance? (And who doesn't need GAP Insurance?) We’ve got you covered there too!

Submit your online application or give us a call at 484-223-4216 and we’ll take your application over the phone.

Giovanni Pabon

About Giovanni Pabon

Gio is an Assistant Loan Manager at GOLD. He focuses on making processes and workflows more efficient for GOLD. Gio finds satisfaction in positively impacting the quality of his team's work and helping our Members achieve their goals through lending. 

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