How Long Does it Take to Buy a Car?

Contemplating buying a car is an exciting proposition. Considering the pros and cons of making a vehicle purchase, one may wonder how long it takes to buy a car? According to The Zebra, an online site helping to simplify insurance, the average time it takes to buy a car is 14 hours. A long block of time out of your busy life can easily fit into your list’s “cons” column. Fortunately, there are several ways to prepare for a more straightforward and streamlined car buying process.

Several options are available to the car-buying consumer. Many online sites are available to purchase a vehicle, allowing you to complete the process without ever leaving your home. Car purchasing apps are also available for download, and you can easily navigate websites to browse vehicles; in 2020, the buying process is very much at your fingertips.

There are obviously more car-buying options available than simply shopping online. There is also the experience of purchasing a vehicle directly from the dealership (though options are currently limited in this realm due to COVID-19). Private sellers typically offer a used car that can supply a higher value for your money. There are also numerous websites that allow consumers to find used cars available in their local area. It’s hard to top the experience of the physical dealership, especially if you want the full experience of looking, touching, and driving a vehicle before making a purchase. 

Factors To Consider When Buying A Car

Preparing for a car purchase is much easier if you consider the factors that will narrow down your decision beforehand. With a little bit of effort and research, the resulting purchase will come with a reward sweeter than the risk.

Know What You Want

Knowing what kind of car you want seems like the most challenging part of the process, but it becomes clear once you start to break it down.

Location: If you live by the beach and it is beautiful weather with consistent temperatures throughout the year, the car you may want to buy will differ from what you would need if you lived in an area that is covered in snow and ice half of the year. While the beach-weather consumer may look at sports cars or convertibles, the latter may be wise to choose a truck, SUV or 4x4.

Size: Perhaps you are single, or maybe you have a family with several children. What size vehicle makes the most sense for you? Choose a compact, midsize, family sedan, small or large truck/SUV.

Animals: More individuals have pets than ever before. It is useful to remember to find a vehicle that offers cargo space for large pets or extra seating for small pets you may want to ride next to you. This step will make it safer and more comfortable for everyone in the vehicle - including our furry little friends.

Electric or Gas: There are many choices of hybrids, gas, and electric cars; researching which option is best for you is essential in selecting the right vehicle for your needs. If good gas mileage is critical, consider looking at a hybrid. If you are not as concerned with fuel cost, need additional power and more cargo area, consider a large truck or SUV. When purchasing an all-electric vehicle, it’s imperative to know where available charging stations exist within your town or city.

Budget: When considering how much you can afford to spend, the rule of thumb is to spend a maximum of 15% of your take-home pay. So for example, if you make $50,000/yr take home, you could reasonably spend $7500.00 a year on your vehicle. That would come out to a monthly payment of roughly $625.00. 

New or Used: Many new cars depreciate 10% in value the moment you drive it off the car lot. Experts warn that a new car can lose up to 20% of its value the first year, and an additional 10% each following year. Used vehicles provide more car for the budget, but also come with potentially expensive maintenance issues.

Actual Purchase Time At The Dealership

When determining the length of time you will spend at the dealership, consider what you will be looking to accomplish there:

  • Looking at a vehicle
  • Test driving a vehicle
  • Price negotiation
  • Financing
  • Filling out paperwork
  • Taking possession of the vehicle.

Stepping into the dealership with a firm budget and a vehicle in mind keeps the power in your hands during the purchase process. Making decisions beforehand reduces the average purchase process from around 14 hours down to 3 - 6 hours. That time difference completely changes the buying experience, transforming it from a burden into a surprisingly enjoyable process.

There are further steps you can take to create a smoother purchase experience:

Calculate extra fees: Eliminate budget changes by calculating the additional costs added to the total purchase: This includes vehicle registration fees, title, tax, and emission fees for your state. Also, you must decide if you will want a warranty or an extra maintenance plan included with your purchase. And don’t forget about insurance!

Documents to bring with you:

  • Checkbook or credit card for a down payment
  • Driver’s license
  • Proof of car insurance
  • Loan account number and payoff amount for trade-in (if applicable)
  • Rebate eligibility documents (if applicable)

Pay attention to the date you pick to shop: Making a deliberate choice to purchase your car at the end of a yearly quarter, the end of the year, or holidays like New Year’s Eve or Labor Day, can save you up to 8% off of the sticker price!

In Closing

Every choice we make in life affects us, and buying a car is no different. Purchasing a vehicle is a relatively large budget item for the majority of people. Taking a few simple steps and learning more about your wants and needs in terms of the vehicle you wish to purchase is the key to not only a pleasant buying experience, but the quickest car buying experience possible. Happy shopping!