Congrats—you’re ready to purchase your first real car!
The process can be daunting, but we’ll walk you through it. Follow our guidelines for a stress-free ride!
1. Determine if you really need a car
OK, you weren’t expecting this, but it’s important to take a step back to review your actual transportation needs. Lots of college towns have a great bus system in place, which can save you loads on car costs. If you have a car-owning good friend you’ll be riding into town with each weekend, it may not pay for you to have your own set of wheels. Also, if your campus has everything you need within walking distance, it can be cheaper to rent a car when you need it instead of buying one now.
2. Know your budget
If you’ve determined that a car purchase is necessary at this point in your life, don’t start hunting for your dream car until you’ve worked out a realistic budget. Take a hard look at your other monthly expenses to see how much you can spare for a new set of wheels. Don’t forget to include some cash for auto insurance, gas and maintenance.
3. Create a tentative wish list
This is your first car, so it doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles it does in your dreams. Sit down and make a list of all the “must haves” and “wants” you’re looking for in a vehicle. Determine how much each feature would cost you in a car and decide which are really important.
4. Obtain financing
If you’ve been saving up cash for your first car all through high school, you’re set! Otherwise, visit us to learn about your auto loan options and to get your pre-approval. (You can also check out TCU’s Car Loans and Credit Scores and Reports modules to learn more.)
5. Research your options
You’re ready to start looking for a vehicle that will satisfy your needs and wants. You can research ratings and user reviews on sites like Cars.com and create another list that contains your top three choices of car makes and models.
6. Look up listings
Start scavenging for listings of your car choices online and in your neighborhood. Once you’ve found several that might work, research their histories on Carfax.com and then contact the seller to set up a test drive.
7. Take it for a spin
If a car checks out and everything looks good, you’re going to want to take it for a test drive. Pay attention to details like legroom, acceleration, brake functionality and more while you drive. Even if you’re buying a car online, you should try to make sure you can test drive the vehicle before you officially purchase it.
8. Have it inspected
If you’re purchasing a used vehicle, it’s best to have it inspected by a mechanic before signing on the deal.
9. Make it official
If your car has passed the test drive and inspection, you’re ready to make it official! Be sure to read all documents before signing and obtain insurance before your first joyride.
Enjoy your new set of wheels and drive safely!
Visit our Financial Education Programs and Resources for more financial tips on a variety of topics.
In addition, TCU works directly with hundreds of dealerships so you can finance your next car, truck, or SUV without having to stop by a TCU branch. Click here to learn more!