Let's Talk First

Tips & Resources

Five Important Steps When Buying Your First Car


You’ve decided to buy your first car. It’s an exciting prospect – so exciting that you might rush into a decision you’ll come to regret. Getting stuck with a nice car you can’t afford is just as bad as getting stuck with a lemon. To make sure you love your car months, and even years, after you purchase it, follow these five steps.

Step One: Make a Budget
Don’t let an offer for a car with a low or no down payment fool you into buying more than you can afford. Budgeting your car isn’t just about setting aside some cash for the down payment. You also need to make a realistic plan for the monthly payments.

You also need to think about other expenses: gas, insurance, maintenance and repairs. These costs vary depending on the model and the year, so do your research.

Step Two: Determine Your Priorities
Once you know your budget, start thinking about what you need in a car. Be practical here.

Do you need a big truck that will let you haul a lot of stuff? Or is passenger room more important? Or maybe you’re more concerned with fuel efficiency.

Step Three: Shop Around
You’re ready to start shopping, and you have a lot of options.

If you want a new or nearly new car, you can go to a traditional dealership. Here, you can be fairly confident that you’re not buying a lemon, but you may have to negotiate to get a good deal. To save even more money, consider purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle, which is lightly used and often still under warranty.

Going to a used dealership is another option. The cars here are generally older and cheaper, but because you’re working with a dealership, you can still negotiate a monthly payment plan.

A final option is buying a car from a private seller. Because there’s no overhead, you can get a good deal, but there are risks involved. Arrange to meet in a safe location, and be on the lookout for signs of a scam, like the ones listed on Fraud Guides.

Step Four: Inspect the Car
If you’re buying a new car, you still need to do your research. Look at safety ratings and reviews. See if the model is known for having expensive maintenance issues.

If you’re buying a used car, also track down the history of the car you’re considering. Several companies provide car histories for a small fee, including Carfax, Auto Check and Chekhovian.

To register your car in Hawaii, you’ll need a current safety inspection certificate. Ask about this before you agree to purchase a vehicle.

Step Five: Ace the Paperwork
If you own the car completely – that is, if you’re not paying for it with a loan – you’ll need to have the title transferred to you. You’ll also need to register your car and obtain a current safety inspection certificate. The paperwork must be submitted to the DMV in Hawaii within 30 days to avoid late fees.

You’ll also need to have car insurance to drive or register your car. Contact us for a quote.