How to Get the Best Deal When Buying a Car

HMFCUFinancial Education, Ways to Save

Buy new, buy used, or lease? These are just a few of the many decisions you’ll need to make before happily driving away with a vehicle. While shopping for a car or truck is exciting, it is also no simple matter. You can avoid buyer’s remorse by making important financial and practical decisions before signing on the dotted line.

By reviewing the pros and cons of buying and leasing, how to analyze and determine your personal requirements, how to get the best purchase price and financing deal, and the laws that protect your rights as a consumer before you shop, you can be sure to make the right choice.

What’s Right for You?

Shopping for a car can be complicated and time-consuming. It involves balancing your desires with your economic reality, deciding whether to buy or lease, and knowing what is the best deal for you. To make the process efficient and improve your chances of driving away happy, you will need to consider:

  • Your Needs – Think about your transportation requirements. Does your car need to be large enough for a family of five, or small enough to fit in tight city parking spaces; tough enough to haul firewood, or chic enough to drive clients around?
  • Your Wants – Your desires certainly play a part in the car buying decision. Make, color, options, and style are all important to being happy with your final choice. Read car magazines and websites for ideas.
  • Your Spending Plan – It is easy to get carried away and end up with a car that is out of your price range and a monthly payment beyond your capacity. Your spending plan, not a salesperson’s opinion, should dictate your decision. Review your income and expenses to see what you have available each month for auto expenses.

Save For a Down Payment or Total Car Cost

While it is possible to buy a car with no money down, you will end up paying a lot more for it if you do so. The more you borrow, the more the car will ultimately cost.

To decrease the amount you finance, it is wise to make a significant down payment. With enough savings, you may be able to purchase a car outright (typically an option when buying a used car, rather than a new one).

Effective saving begins with first determining how much you want to save, then setting a reasonable date to achieve your goal. Using an automatic deduction can make the process easy. You can set-up a reoccurring automatic transfer to have a set sum deducted from your checking account and automatically deposited into savings.

New, Used, or Lease: Advantages and Disadvantages of Each

After you determine how much you can afford to spend, the next step is to decide between buying new, buying used, or leasing. It is important to be familiar with each option’s positive and negative aspects.

While leasing a car may enable you to get “more car” for less money each month than what you might be able to purchase, it is important to remember that leasing means renting. When the term of the lease is up, you return the car. At that point, you have the option of paying any outstanding fees for mileage or damage, or purchasing the car outright. Often, you will pay more over time by leasing and then purchasing than you would have had you simply bought the car in the first place. If, during the course of the lease contract, you choose to return the car, very high penalties will likely apply.

Credit Reports and Credit History

Your credit history will have a serious impact on the interest rate you will be offered. The better your credit score, the better rate you will be eligible for. Other factors, such as length of employment, income, and expenses may also be considered when determining the type of financing you may qualify for.

If your credit report isn’t perfect, you may consider having someone with good credit co-sign the loan for you. Be cautious about using this option though, as the cosigner assumes equal responsibility for the repayment of the loan. Any late or missed payments will appear on each of your credit reports.

Use our free credit monitoring service, Credit Sense in our online banking to make sure there aren't any surprises on your credit report.

Financing Options and Implications

Because financing increases the total cost of the car, the loan you get is very important. Make sure you understand the following aspects of the loan agreement before you sign any documents:

  • Exact price you’re paying for the vehicle
  • Amount you’re financing
  • Finance charge
  • Annual percentage rate (APR)
  • Number and amount of payments
  • Total sales price

Shop for the Best Deal

The total amount you will pay for your car depends on its price, the annual percentage rate (APR), and the length of the loan. When shopping for the best deal:

  • Don’t be fooled by an advertised low monthly payment – if the length of the loan is long and the interest rate high, you will be paying more than you may have to.
  • Be wary of extremely low promotional APRs. Though you may qualify for particularly low rates by making a large down payment, it may be more affordable to pay higher financing charges on a car that is lower in price or to buy a car that requires a smaller down payment.
  • Look for manufacturer’s incentives. Dealers may offer cash back on specific models.

We might be biased, but we believe using our network of preferred dealers from Member Auto Center is your best bet. Use their Car Buying Search Tool to find your next vehicle from one of over 60 dealers in the Greater Houston Area.

Car Buying Search Tool

Beware zero-percent financing

Zero percent financing sounds like an amazing bargain – after all, how can you beat a no interest loan? Often, you can. Such “deals” frequently come with inflated prices for extended warranties and loan insurance, high application fees, and pre-payment penalties. And because you forfeit the rebate option, you end up paying a higher price for the car. You may also be required to repay the car in three years or fewer – resulting in a very high monthly payment.

Zero percent financing can be elusive. It is only offered to those with very good credit, as determined by the lender. And it is often not available for the most popular cars and trucks.

Dealer and Finance Company Loans

At an auto dealership, you will be encouraged to use dealer financing. While not all dealer loans are bad, in almost all cases a loan from Houston Metropolitan will save you the most money in interest.

Be prepared!

Never walk onto a car lot unprepared. Before you go, you should already know:

  • The model you want
  • The options you are looking for
  • Your transportation needs
  • How much you are willing to spend
  • How much you can afford to finance
  • How much you can spend on a monthly payment

Gain a good understanding of price, models and features by conducting research using car-buying magazines, books, and the Internet. Be sure to compare models and prices in ads and at dealer showrooms. Visit your financial institution before you shop, so you can seek your vehicle armed with the knowledge of how much you can spend.


To get the best price on your new car, you will often have to negotiate with the salesperson. Developing your bargaining skills will be worth it to you in the end, as it can often save you 10 to 20 percent of the advertised price. You may be able to negotiate a particularly good price on overstocked or less popular cars.

But remember – a deal isn’t a deal if you end up with a car you don’t really want. Sometimes ordering a car will save you more money then negotiating for one on the lot, as you won’t be paying for unnecessary options.

When you work with our Preferred Dealer Network, you’ll get special credit union pricing. We’ll work with you and the dealership to get you the best price on you next car.

Trade In Your Old Car

If you already have a vehicle, you will likely be selling it and using the profit to pay for all or part of your new car. To get the best price, make sure you know your car’s worth. Check with one of our loan officers or the Internet to know its value (try  www.kbb.com  and  www.nada.com). After that, you have two options:

  • Trade-in to the dealer. This is often the easiest option, though typically not the best deal. To ensure you get the most from a trade-in, do so only after you’ve negotiated the best possible price for your new car.
  • Sell the car yourself. You will usually get the best price this way, but will have to allow for the time it takes to sell, as well as the effort of placing the ad, talking to and seeing a lot of people, and negotiating with buyers.

Using our Preferred Dealer Network and a loan from Houston Metropolitan FCU, you can now get the best pricing on you next vehicle! Use our Car Buying Search Tool to get a quote on your next dream car.

Car Buying Search Tool