Right arrow chevron-right chevron-left
Closeup of a laptop keyboard with other devices nearby as well as classes, notebooks, and pens.


8 Tips for First-Time Car Buyers

8 Tips for First-Time Car Buyers | MECU

The car-buying process can sometimes be filled with uncertainty. Will my interest rate be low enough to afford the car I want? Will my down-payment be enough to secure the monthly note I need? Whether you’re a recent grad with your first real job or someone who is just starting their car-buying journey alone, there are several things you should keep in mind during the process. Members Exchange Credit Union has 8 helpful tips for first-time car buyers in Jackson, MS. 

1. Enjoy the Process 

It’s not always easy to get rid of that old-faithful hand-me-down from high school or college. We’ve all had those long, memorable nights, unfortunate break-downs on the highway, and unforgettable road trips of our youth. When it’s time to change pace, it can seem tough to simply enjoy the process. We know making a decision on which car to buy seems like an ordeal, but we live in a world with a robust automotive menu alongside affordable options. With low financing rates and a variety of makes, years, and styles to choose from, even an entry-level car can drastically change your transportation lifestyle. 

2. Know your Options When it Comes to Secure Financing 

Financing issues can be the biggest hurdle when it comes to buying your first car. While there are a number of options available, it’s important to secure the best financing possible so that your car note remains within your budget for the lifetime of your loan. The last thing you want is to be at the dealership with what you think is the car of your dreams when the Finance and Insurance (F&I) representative is holding all the cards. Your credit history and credit score factor heavily into the loan process; however, reaching out to a local credit union can help you secure the most competitive financing. As a member, credit unions like Members Exchange Credit Union in Jackson, MS promise the lowest possible interest rates for your credit bracket. 

3. Do Your Research On the Best, Most Reliable Vehicles

Online research is one of the best ways to know whether you are eyeing a reliable vehicle or a potentially problematic one.  Forums, comparative blogs from various manufacturers, or customer reviews can point you in the right direction so you get the biggest bang for your buck or truck. While salespeople are helpful and there is an unlimited amount of information online, both may be biased. In order to get a second, stronger opinion, try getting in touch with a friend or acquaintance who already owns the particular vehicle you are trying to purchase. Ownership experience never fails to produce a solid, up-to-date customer review. 

 4. Identify and Prioritize Your Wants vs. Your Needs 

Keep in mind that while shopping, your wants may tend to overshadow your needs. When purchasing a car for the first time, it’s important to prioritize the essentials while satisfying as much of your wants as possible. Is the car you are looking for going to work for your commute in terms of efficiency? If you are a frequent road-tripper, is the SUV you’re considering purchasing maintained enough to tack on additional miles? These are the types of questions to ask yourself during this phase of the car-buying process! Given the cost of fuel, insurance, and in many cities, parking, additional expenses can be overwhelming, which brings us to our next topic. 

5. Understand Your Budget, Factor in Life Expenses 

Knowing what you can spend monthly is critical to managing your debt to income ratio. In most cases, you’ll require a loan to drive off in your first vehicle. This is when you’ll look at your cost of living including food, fitness, entertainment, and recreational expenses. Once those things are calculated, if possible, you’ll want to stay within a budget that will allow you to save monthly while maintaining a car note, car insurance, and maintenance. 

 6. Take a Test Drive, or Two or Three 

With all of the online sources available for your basic research, you may think that the importance of taking a test drive is null and void; however, there is much more to a vehicle than the appearance. Oftentimes, relying on just the CarFax history can leave you with a sour taste in your mouth, and a lemon to match. Virtually nothing is more important than how you feel behind the wheel and how reliable the car will be long-term. The size of the vehicle, steering feel, and turn radius, all contribute to your experience in the long run. Because you’ll be driving the vehicle you choose for quite some time, it’s important to factor this into your decision. 

Take several test drives based on multiple vehicles within a similar price range, and do so for at least 30 minutes or more. Keep in mind that while working with a salesperson may seem like their goal is to get you signed and off of the lot as soon as possible, they also want your trust and for you to leave with a positive customer experience. If there is something wrong with the vehicle, they are likely to persuade you to look at other options. 

7. Negotiate the Best Purchase Price For You 

Once you’ve decided what you like and have already established what you can afford, it’s time to arrive at the purchase price. For used vehicles, the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price gives you an accurate idea of what people have paid in your area for the car you have an interest in. If you have received a price from one dealership and are shopping around, let the salesperson know so they can remain competitive if possible. If you have no comparative reference, refrain from revealing your “per month” number. When discussing what you want to pay, give the lowest number within your flexible budget. You can always work up or request that the dealership get closer to your original buying price.

8. Determine Servicing Plan to Prepare for Future Maintenance 

Once you have followed the above steps and sign the dotted line, you’ll still need to factor in future maintenance costs. Luckily, Members Exchange Credit Union offers Extended Warranty Low-Cost Mechanical Repair Coverage for our members as well as Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) to help cover your expenses. If neither of these options appeals to you, you can always set aside an emergency repair fund for when times are tough. Maintaining your vehicle and keeping it in supreme condition will ensure its longevity. Ideally, you will have paid your vehicle off before even having to think about the car-buying process again.  

Purchase Your First Car Through MECU | Serving Greater Jackson Metro Area 

When it’s finally time to make the big purchase, apply for your auto loan from Members Exchange! With pre-approved financing in hand, your car-buying experience will be that much easier to manage. Not sure which car is right for you? Regardless of where you purchase your vehicle, Members Exchange Credit Union in Jackson, MS takes the troubles of financing off your plate, making the process that much easier and even more affordable. Contact MECU today to become a member and secure the best auto loan rates in the Greater Jackson Metro Area!