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6 Things You Should Know Before Shopping for Your Dream Car

Finnegan Pierson
Whether it is a rugged off-road truck or a sleek sports car, are you ready to start shopping for your dream car? Don't let emotions get the best of you during the process. Here are six things you should know before you head to the dealership.

Your Credit Score and History

Whether or not you qualify for many of the incentives can depend on your credit score with the major credit reporting agencies. Check your report and score before you start shopping to avoid any surprises. If you are on the line of qualifying for a better rate, it might be worth waiting to make that purchase while you take steps to improve your score.
Don't let mistakes on your report slide, either. You may be able to fix credit score issues by addressing those mistakes and having them removed from the major bureau reports. Look for false inquiries, loans that have been paid off, or mistakes in balances to make sure everything is accurate.

Incentives that are Available

Car manufacturers want you to buy their vehicles. In fact, they want your business bad enough that they are willing to offer some pretty great incentives to get you to sign on the dotted line. Look for financing offers with rates as low as 0%. These aren't just for two or three-year loans, either.
Highly qualified buyers can often find extended terms at very low rates. Some car makers prefer to use cash discount offers instead. Read the fine print to make sure you qualify for any advertised discounts before you go to the dealer. This can help you avoid sticker shock surprises later on.

Reliability and Safety Scores

Don't overlook the reliability and safety scores of your dream car. Even if they don't influence your decision to buy, you should at least know what you are getting yourself into. Reliability scores can help you know if you should expect to see your car in the shop more often than other people.
If this is a second or pleasure vehicle, it may not matter to you. If it's your everyday commuting car, it may cause problems. Safety scores can be an important factor for buying a car. Check crash test ratings and insurance industry opinions to know how safe you'll be in an accident. See what features the car has to avoid accidents.

Hidden Costs of Ownership

There are always some hidden costs of car ownership that go beyond your monthly payment. You'll need to put fuel in your vehicle. Even if you go with a fully electric model, you'll still have to pay for the cost of electricity when you plug it in.


Insurance is another consideration. If you've been dreaming of owning this car for years, you'll want to make sure it is fully covered in case something happens. Specialty cars can command a hefty insurance premium, so check with your agent before you make a purchase.
Plan for repairs and regular maintenance, too. Some companies offer these as a package when you purchase a new vehicle, but you should expect to face them eventually in most cases.

Next Year's Updates

With technology changing so rapidly, cars are undergoing major changes in short periods of time. Manufacturers release information about upcoming models and their features way ahead of production, so you have no excuses to not check this information.
If they are planning major update that brings some convenience, safety, or comfort features, you might want to hold off to check them out. Chances are there will still be a few prior- year models on the lot when you shop so you can compare them side by side.
You've had your eye on that car for some time. Make sure you understand these basic things before you head to the dealership so you can have the best buying experience possible.