Most of us need a car. In most areas of the country, it’s a non-negotiable expense — but an expense it is, for sure. Cars do not come cheap, which is part of why picking one out and buying one is often so darn stressful. Studies show that we’re freaking out about our car-buying experiences, and that makes a whole lot of sense when you remember that Americans tend to have less than $500 in savings, and that cars cost tens of thousands of dollars!

However, ways to spend less when you buy a car do exist. Here’s what you need to know.

Buying a Used Car

If the idea of buying a pricey vehicle doesn’t appeal to you, there’s one major option that you should take a look at. Buying a used vehicle is a quick way to slash the costs of your car-buying odyssey, and it doesn’t have to mean getting a less reliable ride.

Cars depreciate as they age, but there’s no bigger moment for depreciation than the moment that a new car is driven off the lot. A car can lose as much as twenty percent of its value at that moment, just because it has become a “used” car. Savvy buyers can take advantage of this by buying relatively new used cars, which can allow them to save a mint while still getting a very reliable vehicle.

Of course, downsides to buying a used car also exist. A car’s first owner can ensure that it’s getting the maintenance it needs, and a very old vehicle can drain your finances because of maintenance and repair costs. However, certified used vehicles and vehicle history reports have made it easier to keep track of maintenance and other parts of a car’s history, and a smart used car buying strategy can help you avoid getting an old clunker. These days, it makes sense for frugal folks to buy used vehicles!

Shop for Your Car Online

When you head to the dealership or look at local car ads, you’re seeing the cars available in your area. However, what about all of the cars that aren’t? You’ll find many cars out there, and the one that’s perfect for you might end up just a bit further afield.

The internet can help. With online car listings, you’ll get a more complete picture of what’s available to you. You’ll find prices fairer — and lower — than at your more car-scarce local market. Look for auction sites like Auto Auction Mall, and save a bundle!

The internet is also full of resources that can help you make a more informed decision about your purchase. Classic resources like the Kelley Blue Book now exist online, and plenty of free and paid tools exist to help connect you with resale price figures, data about how well certain makes and models hold their value, vehicle history reports, dealer certifications, and expert recommendations. The internet is your source for all kinds of information, so make sure that you use it to its fullest potential when shopping for your next vehicle.

The Secret Savings Ingredient: You

It’s not just the prices and the vehicles. When we pay too much for a car, it’s often ourselves that we should blame. Experts recommend preparing yourself before you start shopping. In particular, you’ll want to set a budget and stick to it. Don’t get carried away. You must make this decision with great care. Don’t take on a ton of debt when you buy a car (although a healthy amount of car debt is okay), and exercise restraint. If you buy used and shop online with care, there’s no reason that you can’t find the perfect car without breaking the bank!

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