It's an inevitable point we all reach. Your hand-me-down car from high school is now older than most Rihanna fans, and you'd love to stop making rent-sized payments to your auto mechanic. Or maybe you fancy yourself a proud urbanite, but the bicycle and bus pass don't exactly cut it when you land that new job in the suburbs.
Related: Quick Start Guide to Buying a Car
Either way, it's time to pony up the cash for a new — or less-used — car. Not to worry: We have you covered with dozens of stories for first-time buyers. Check them out below.
First off, if you don't know when it's time to consider a new (or newer) car, here are some signs. Can't decide whether you should buy new or used? See our primer on the advantages for buying new versus the advantages of buying used.
If you're shopping used, check out our top choices for $10,000, then research a few possibilities by make, model and year. Don't know how far your budget will stretch? Try our used-car values calculator. Are you willing to pay extra for a little peace of mind? Read up on certified pre-owned vehicles.
Once you decide on a few candidates, it's time to check out Cars.com's used and CPO listings and contact a few sellers. Eventually you'll have to kick some tires and take a few test drives, but don't worry — we have you covered there, too:
- Take note of our questions to ask the seller.
- Then study how to inspect a used car and what to look for during your test-drive.
- Finally, learn what to look for after the test-drive.
- If you're shopping at a car dealership, you might be offered a used-car warranty — and you should learn the terminology.
- At this point, much of the negotiation process is similar to that of a new car — particularly if you're financing the purchase — so skim down to the bullet points in the next section for more.
If you're shopping new, consider if you want to buy or lease a car, then decide how much car you can afford with our affordability calculator. Research new models by make, model, gas mileage or price. Read our latest expert and consumer reviews, and see our editors test a whole class of cars.
Once you've narrowed down the choices, it's time to find a few prospective candidates on Cars.com, contact a few dealerships and take some test drives.
- Compare the current cash-back and financing offers on the new models out there, and bone up on negotiating tips.
- Learn what's on a new-car window sticker and some of the extra costs you may have to pay, like dealer documentation fees.
- Need a car loan? You're not alone; most Americans finance their purchase and make car payments. Read up on what you need to get a car loan, and see our game plan for how to navigate a dealership finance office. See how a car payment is calculated with our auto-loan calculator.
- Finally, learn about some of the extras a dealer may try to sell you.
Down the Road
After you drive that shiny ride off the lot — or away from the seller's driveway — see our expert tips on how to keep your new ride in tip-top shape.