Yes, getting a new car is exciting, but you need to consider a lot of factors when you’re shopping from the term of your loan to what kind of safety technology is available, to how much insurance you’ll need. Getting a new car often means that you’re required to carry a fairly hefty insurance package to satisfy your loan company. Here are five tips on what to look for when you’re shopping.

  • Check out J.D. Powers quality ratings for your style, make, and model. The ratings for 2017 and some 2016 models are not yet out, but by searching for 2015 models, you’ll have plenty to choose from. LD Powers rated vehicles for overall quality, performance and design, and predicted reliability, but not for safety.
  • The NHTSA rates the safety of cars through three tough tests – rollover, t-bone, head on, and overall crash performance and lets you compare to other cars and notes the availability of safety technologies such as rearview video systems, electronic stability control, forward collision warning systems, and lane departure (or drift) warning systems.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts its own crash tests, and these are slightly different from the NHTSA. The IIHS then issues ratings and also highlights their top safety picks and Top Safety Pick Plus
  • Weekends are the busiest time for car dealerships, and not the best time to make a deal. Shop early in the week, toward the end of the month, and make your offer late in the day when sales people want to clinch that one last deal. Give serious consideration to models from the previous or outgoing years, since these need to be cleared out to put the new models in.
  • Did you know that you can be preapproved for a car loan? Get the financing lined up first to keep the upper hand in negotiations. A word of warning, “Buy Here, Pay Here” lots can be the payday loans of car financing. If your credit isn’t going to get you a good deal on financing, you might want to put off shopping for a car until you can improve your credit score and get a better deal.

Additionally, you need to factor the cost of insurance into what you’re going to be paying per month to operate that car. You need to have a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection, and $10,000 in Property Damage Liability, but you could be leaving yourself massively exposed in the event of an accident. You may want to carry a collision policy that pays for damage to your vehicle from an accident, a comprehensive policy that handles all other hazard like fire, theft, windstorm, and flood. Medical, uninsured motorist, loss of use, and the cost to replace the car should it be totaled are other items you should speak about with your insurance agent. You’re going to put your money into a vehicle, shouldn’t you protect that money just the same way as you would your home?