Buying a car is a big purchase and decision, second probably only to buying a home. It requires some serious thought, research, and more than likely isn’t something you go out and do on a whim. You want to be prepared, ready and knowledgeable, so I thought I’d put together some helpful tips I’ve learned over the years.

Whether your family is growing, you’ve recently moved (hello!), your warranty is expiring, or maybe you just want something more fuel-efficient, buying a car usually means something is changing in your life. Whatever the reason is, these helpful steps I’ve learned from my friends at COUNTRY Financial will make the car buying process as painless as possible. You can thank me later, OK?

Corri McFadden and her daughter Zelda sit on top a car and talk to readers about how to purchase a new car.

1. Evaluate What You Need For Your Current And Near Future Lifestyle

If you start to feel the urge to buy a new car, stop and evaluate where you’re at in your life at that moment and where you’ll be in the near future. Think about your needs and if your current vehicle is meeting them just fine or if you really do need something different. Trust me, I’ve been in the position where buying sounds amazing, but it wasn’t really a necessity. The last thing you want is to make a very expensive impulse purchase.

Corri McFadden picks up one hundred dollar bills off the ground.

2. Come Up With A Budget

This is probably the most important step when you purchase a new car. You’ve probably heard the phrase “house poor,” right? Well, you can be vehicle poor, too. This means you have such a huge payment every month that you don’t have any income left over for other things. Life can get stressful fast, and if you overspend, your newly purchased vehicle can become a pain point rather than something your family enjoys. Think about what makes the most sense for you. Questions to ask yourself: Should you get a loan? Should you continue to save and pay for the car outright? Is leasing the best option?

Corri McFadden teams up with COUNTRY Financial to teach you about buying a car.

If you already have a car payment that you have budgeted into your family’s expenses and it works, that’s a great place to start when thinking about a budget for a different vehicle. If you don’t currently have a payment, I suggest testing out what having that payment would be like for four months before making a purchase. To do this, set a budget, let’s say $900/month. This will cover the payment, insurance, gas and a little extra for any incidentals that pop up. Live for four months setting this amount of money aside and see how it affects you. If you’re feeling strained, rethink the budget. If it works, time to move on to step number three.

Zelda of Glitter and Bubbles stands on an orange car.

3. Educate Yourself On The Vehicle(s) You Are Interested In

This can be the fun part, but you also want to be sure you’re getting all the information you need. Spiro and I like to get on forums and read what other people are saying about vehicles we might be interested in. We also like to find out what the most commons problems are for the make/model we’re thinking about buying. Don’t forget to think about resale, too. I know that may seem a bit extra, but you don’t want to get into a vehicle that no one else will want if you’re not planning on keeping it for the long haul. So think about things like exterior and interior colors – sometimes it’s best to go with the most neutral option because that’s what the majority of people are looking for.

Lastly, I’d definitely recommend thinking about whether it makes sense to buy the vehicle new or used. If having a warranty is very important to you, maybe you want to go the new route. However, there are usually used options with very little miles on them that still have warranties as well.

The biggest thing is that when you’re finally ready to head into the dealership, you don’t go in knowing nothing. This gives the salesperson (not that they’re all schemers, but better safe than sorry) the opportunity to get away with something. Go in there knowing exactly what you want so they can tailor the vehicle to you and not the other way around.

Corri McFadden sits on an orange collectors car and discusses insurance with COUNTRY Financial.

4. What Type Of Car Insurance Do You Need?

At this point in the car buying process, you probably know which vehicle you want. So now comes the tricky part – insurance. First, call your insurance agent BEFORE you buy the vehicle. Second, know what kind of coverage you’re looking for. If you’re not sure, here are a few terms to know.

Liability: Liability insurance covers bodily injuries and/or property damages you cause to someone else. So if you have a liability policy, it does NOT cover the cost of injuries to you or damage to your vehicle. This kind of policy does not have a deductible, meaning if you file a claim, you don’t have to pay anything for the third party to receive coverage.

Collision: Collision is coverage that will pay for the repairs to your vehicle should it be damaged by colliding into another vehicle or object. It does have a deductible.

Comprehensive: Comprehensive car insurance will pay to repair or replace your vehicle should it be damaged by anything else other than a collision. So if it’s stolen, has hail damage, burns in a fire, is vandalized, etc. It also requires a deductible.

Zelda of Glitter and Bubbles teams up with COUNTRY Financial.

Consider all of these kinds of insurance and find out how much it will cost to insure the vehicle you’re looking at. This cost should be built into the budget you already set, so keep that in mind when speaking to your insurance agent. Once you understand all the info above and have the coverage you truly need, you’ll be 100% ready if an accident actually occurs. This is called peace of mind and having it is amazing.

Corri McFadden and Zelda discuss the best ways to purchase a new car.

5. Go Get Yourself A Deal!

You’ve done all the research, you know what you can afford, so now it’s time to go get yourself a deal. If you’re a woman going in to negotiate on your own, you’ll want to be ready to kick ass because more than likely the salesperson will see you as an easy target. Studies have actually shown that when it comes to buying a car, salespeople stick to a script when they are dealing with men, but not with women. They’ll typically assume women don’t have the same car buying knowledge as men and try to take advantage of them. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true and it definitely happens. I’ve unfortunately been in this situation before, so when you’re ready to negotiate, either bring a man with you or be prepared to stand up for yourself as to not get taken advantage of. You can do it!

Don’t let this process intimidate you! Just break it down into these five easy steps recommended by COUNTRY Financial and you’ll be good to go. When you do, I know you and your family will end up with a vehicle you love for years to come!

Thank you to COUNTRY Financial for sponsoring this post. It’s partners like this that make documenting our journey possible.