Buying a car for the first time can be intimidating—a whirlwind of MSRP, financing, and test drives. It’s a big financial commitment and there are many factors to consider to make the best decision for your family and lifestyle. Here are some tips to guide you in the right direction, keep you from getting frazzled about what to do next, and help you come out at the end with a new set of keys.
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 Establish a Budget
What can you realistically afford right now? You may want the shiny sports car, but if the monthly payments on it costs more than your monthly salary, it will be driving you home to a cardboard box. Look at your cost of living and consider all of your expenses. Your new car will leave a bitter taste in your mouth if the monthly payments are simply too much for your lifestyle.
Find out What Kind of Car Suits You
What kind of car will best get you from A to B in your daily life? If you have two kids, getting a two-seater convertible means you’ll have at least one strapped to the roof. Do you need towing or off-road capabilities? Looking at lifetime ownership will help you understand how much a particular vehicle will cost you in the long run, and whether the level of maintenance required is something doable for you. These are things to consider—don’t base your car decision on that road trip you take once every two years.
Find a Dealership 
If you get a Volvo and the closest place to get a Volvo serviced is 3 hours away, that’s going to become a routine inconvenience. If something ever goes wrong with your vehicle, it will become a major one. Research the dealership and service locations most convenient for you with the type of car you need. Both new and pre-owned vehicles need attention and maintenance to last. Similarly, feel out the sales staff—if your gut is telling you a salesperson is not doing their most to help you, you’re not obligated to stay on the floor and give them your money. 
Have Your Financing in Order
Don’t get to the dealership and realize your lack of credit history is going to count hard against you. Talk to your credit agency beforehand to discuss your status and get your situation organized and ready to go. This will also help you understand how much the down payment might be relative to the car’s cost. Of course, look at all your options before making a final decision. Dealerships often have excellent Finance departments that will help you out as well. 
Test Drive
Buying a car without test driving it is like cracking open a piñata that could have either candy or brussel sprouts in it—and are you really willing to take that risk? Even if you like brussel sprouts, did you really want them in your piñata? Vegetable comparisons aside, test drives can help you avoid unpleasant surprises later down the road.
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These tips will help anyone buying a car for the first time make a better decision and make the process just a little less chaotic. Now you won’t have to strap one of your kids to the top, drive three hours for a service, or ride out with a car full of Brussel sprouts…though, that last one might be a little less likely anyway.