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Find The Perfect Car: 10 Tips On Picking A First Car

Buying your first car is a very significant milestone. Whatever your age, your first set of wheels is something that you will treasure for many years. That is unless you get ripped off!

We have compiled a list of tips and tricks to make that first car buying experience as smooth as possible

This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from and other Amazon websites.

#1 What do you actually need?

In most cases, a first-time car owner will find themselves in need of reliability, good gas mileage, an automatic transmission, etc. Lucky for us, these days, air conditioning and power steering come standard. Depending on the utilization, more carrying or storage space may be required. 

At the end of the day, nothing fancy is absolutely “needed”. Your typical, first-time car owner normally doesn't have a ton of money to play with, and will most likely - or should be - looking for something in the $10k-$20k range.

Contributor: Alex Lauderdale founder of

#2 If purchasing a used car, conduct a VIN check

If purchasing a used car, conduct a VIN check through services such as the iSeeCars VIN Report to get a free comprehensive report instantly showing the vehicle’s market value, price and listing history, projected depreciation, objective dealer ratings and much more including resources to obtain vehicle history report, see if there are open recalls and if the car had been stolen.

Contributor: Julie Blackley from

#3 Conduct a thorough check of all the car’s safety features

Conduct a thorough check of all the car’s safety features. Make sure this make of car has been tested in a crash to see how it can withstand the impact. You should also ensure that it has ABS (anti-lock braking system), this helps you to steer if you need to brake severely. 

Modifications that have been made to a car can have a real impact on how much car insurance you have to pay. First time drivers have a hard time getting a low-cost insurance policy as it is, so it is always best to purchase a first car that has not been modified. Alloys and spoilers may be visually appealing, but they won’t look so great when you’re paying substantially more on your insurance policy because of them.

Contributor: Steve Pritchard from

#4 Look into the dealership’s reputation

It's easy to get excited when shopping for your first new vehicle, but don't forget to look into the dealership's reputation. Consumers aren't just buying a car; they're purchasing a relationship with the company.

Questions to consider when shopping around:

  • Does this dealership have too many negative online reviews?
  • Do positive online reviews appear trustworthy or fake?
  • Does the dealer interact with customers on social media?
  • Is the service department friendly and helpful?

Buying a car is a long-term commitment that could involve years of service and maintenance, so be sure to research the dealer as much as the car.

Contributor: Jonas Sickler from

#5 What do you want?

If I’m monetarily participating the purchase, this isn't going to be one of my first questions. For those looking to be more adventurous, I suggest breaking your thought down into cause and effect tidbits. 

You may find a cause to purchase a sporty, fast vehicle. Possible effects of this purchase can be increased insurance costs, lower gas mileage, and an increased likelihood of being pulled over. On the other hand, a first-time car owner may identify the cause to purchase a vehicle with a maxed-out technology package. The follow-up effects to a technology package could be increased maintenance, and associated warranty costs. 

Listen, life is a balance. The good news: With today’s innovations, quite a few wants are beginning to be included in the “need” pay range. Just be sure you don't get in the position of trading needs for wants or you could find yourself in hot water. 

Tip: Don’t be afraid to look at certified, used vehicles. In most cases, they can be found in close-to-pristine conditions, 15-25% less than a new vehicle, and with only 10,000 to 30,000 miles. Additionally, you should be benefiting from residual bumper-to-bumper and power train warranties.

Contributor: Alex Lauderdale founder of

#6 What are you willing to pay?

A common rule for a car payment budget is 10-15% of take-home pay. I consider these numbers a little high myself, but maybe I don’t budget well on other things. To put things in perspective, let's take an example of a $50,000 per year salary. Say your take-home pay – after taxes, retirement, and insurance – is $36,000 a year, your focus should be on vehicles with no more than a $300 to $450 monthly payment.

Contributor: Alex Lauderdale founder of

#7 What are your added costs of ownership?

The two most consistent costs to owning a vehicle, outside of a car payment, are insurance and fuel. The budgeting rule for this combination is 8-10% of take-home pay. Depending on your transit, where you live, and your driving history, insurance and fuel costs can vary widely.

Another factor to consider is that the combined insurance/fuel cost is variable, and will likely fluctuate from one month to the next. Then there are the taxes, fees, maintenance, and repair costs! My advice to any first-time, car owner is to *take a long, hard look at the total cost of driver ownership (TCD) before purchasing any vehicle. provides a pretty great calculator here.

Contributor: Alex Lauderdale founder of

#10 Before you commit any deal, sleep on it

Before you commit any deal, sleep on it. Don't rush into anything and take at least one day to process everything. This is a serious commitment which can lead to benefits or a lot of pain and stress. Make sure you clear your mind so you can make a good decision. And be patient...sometimes you have to wait a while to find the right car that's the right fit for you!

Contributor: Ryan Skidmore from

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Written by Nathaniel Fried

Co-founder of Fupping. Busy churning out content and building an empire.

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