If you’ve got a license and some money, or access to finance, then anyone can buy a car using only the best car finance deals. But, occasionally we need a little help when it comes the whole car buying process. It’s not the same as buying any other product on the high street, you get hassled by car salesman, pressured into buying the car they want you to buy rather than the one you had your eye on, and unless you’re paying cash, the whole finance part of the car buying process can be a challenging time.

We’ve put together 10 golden rules for car buying, as many people often make silly decisions and end up regretting their purchase.

1 - Do Not Put Pen to Paper Unless You’re 100% Sure

When you sign something, particularly when it comes to buying a car, you’re legally entering into a contract to buy it. If you’re getting a quote for finance you don’t, and shouldn’t, need to sign anything. Do not listen to a dealer that says that you’re signing to ‘hold the car’. This is untrue and you could be signing into a formal contract.

2 - Keep Your Money In Your Pocket Unless You’re 100% Sure

As with tip #1 do not sign and do not hand over any money until you’re 100% settled on buying the car. You don’t need to drop any money to test drive the car, nor get a quote or anything else the salesman might tell you.

Think about it, if you pay money for something then you are committing to buy it.

If you’re 100% sure about buying the car then get a full and proper receipt that details what you’re paying for and what the terms and conditions are. Ensure that it has the registration number and/or the VIN number so you have the exact amount that you’re due to pay and for what car.

3 - Before You Sign, Read and Understand Everything First

A legally-binding contract, as mentioned in tip #1, is exactly that so ensure that you’re fully aware of what you’re putting pen to paper for. So many people don’t read the contract fully before buying a car and can often lead to mistakes and regrets down the line.

If you’re unsure about any parts of the contract then don’t sign but ask someone, if it’s not the salesman, then employ a legal aid to ensure that you aren’t being led down the wrong path. There are so many finance options. There are so many implications of being in a contract that you didn’t know the full details of, and yet, so many people sign a contract without knowing the full breadth of what they’re getting themselves into and are stuck with it.

4 - Do Not Be Taken Advantage Of

Only car dealerships take advantage of their ‘victims’ if they let them. Be strong. Be aware. Don’t be led down the wrong path. Ensure that you’re buying the car you want and the one that is right for your future. If you’re unsure, then walk away. Every time. Even if it takes you months to find and buy the right car. Most people with a bad credit car finance get a low APR offer from a dealer - but oddly even if you have good credit then car dealers try and push you to buy a more expensive car as you can usually borrow more than you wanted to in the first place.

All car salesman get commission and are geared to extract the most money from you to ensure they get a percentage of a higher amount from each sale.

Shop around. Sometimes a dealership can have the right car but the wrong salesperson. Either ask for someone else or walk away and find a different car. Don’t let them earn their commission if they try to pull the wool over your eyes.

5 - Buy the Car That You Want Not What They Want You to Have

Dealers want you to buy the cars that are difficult to shift or have been on the forecourt for a while. They don’t want the easy ones to go out the door, or the ones that don’t make that much commission from. Different gearboxes, interiors, trims, extras, accessories and options means prices can vary so much, which is why you need to ensure that you do your homework before you buy a car and have your wits about you when the time comes to walk into a car showroom.

Cars with long waiting periods, an unappealing part-exchange or an odd colour combination will all be cars that the dealer doesn’t want and wants to shift quickly, so be wary of any ‘exclusive’ or unique cars that they try and push onto you.

6 - Get to Grips With The Money Side of Car Buying

So many people ask on the Internet how to get out of their unfavourable car finance agreement, or how to pay off the loan quickly or if they can swap to another car. Others ask on car forums about the reliability of the cars, how to fix common problems and often they wished they’d known about them before buying the car, and if they run into money problems how they can quickly get out of the finance deal to free up some cash.

These are problems that could have been avoided if they’d read this article, particularly #2. Taking out finance over 4 or 5 years is risky business as cars often get less reliable as they get older, they need regular servicing, MOTs can unfurl more problems, and the depreciations that cars suffer from really shows its head after the first year. So, balancing the finance versus the actual cost of the car is a tricky business particularly if you fall into financial difficulties.

Just because most people have the money now and can afford car payments, doesn’t take into consideration that they might lose their job, their circumstances might change, interest rates can affect mortgages, and many other factors can eat into their money making repaying their finance a car just that little bit difficult.

As finance on a car is a secured loan, the finance company can come and take the car back as payment and end the agreement. This means that you still might owe them money if the car isn’t worth what is outstanding, and you have no car, and can be blacklisted from future finance options.

7 - Test Drive the Actual Car You’re Buying

Don’t drive one that is similar or a higher spec. Drive the one that you’re putting your money into. So many people don’t do this and end up not liking the car they pick up. The drive home can be a little awkward.

Can you drive it? Can you see out of the back window? Can you park it? Does it fit in your garage? Does it have all of the optional extras you need and want? Is it worth the money?

It can take a little while for most people to get used to driving a new car, but is it going to be the car you could drive for the next 4-5 years? Can you live with it or are you being sucked into that ‘new car smell’ and the salesperson’s charm?

8 - Get it in Writing

If you get any prices, quotations or promises, then get it in writing before you go any further with the car buying sales process. Get any terms and conditions, exclusions and offers written down, too. Just like you would with any finance option, such as low rates" and you have to control what you sign with those too.

Car dealerships are notorious for making promises, forgetting to tell you about any add-ons, fees and charges. This is why it’s so vital to get everything down on paper and answer any questions. Don’t forget, you’re not the only customer that salesperson has seen. They will be discussing many finance options, cars, specifications and numbers with many other people and they might ‘forget’ that you managed to haggle that last £1,000 off the list price when you go back in to collect the car.

Secure the price, secure the deal, get it in writing and ensure that they stick to their side of the bargain. Otherwise, walk away! Promises are worth nothing unless they are on paper and signed by the dealership.

9 - There Is Always A Better Car or Deal Somewhere Else

Never forget that there are more than 6 million used cars and 2 million new cars and vans sold on finance every year, so there is another perfect car out there for you. Unless you’re looking at a super-rare car then just remember to not be sucked in by the sales process as you can easily walk away and get an even more perfect one from somewhere else.

Yes, you may have spent time on speaking to the salesperson, negotiating a finance deal or some different kinds of car finance, finding the car with the right spec for your needs and thinking that there are no others around, but there will be. Often at a better price, too.

Remember, you’re not that special to the salesperson or the dealership, you’re just another number and another target. But you have to live with the car, so make sure it’s the right one.

10 - All Cars Break Eventually

No matter what the reports are in the press, how a manufacturer’s reputation of selling ‘reliable’ cars is; all cars breakdown and often it’s expensive. Buying the car is just the beginning, you should make sure that you have enough money for running, repairs and servicing of the car, as well as a warranty if you require. Knowing some basic car repairs and servicing tips is a good idea, too, so you don’t have to pay the dealership hourly rates for what are simple jobs (unless it invalidates your warranty).

Don’t overstretch yourself financially when buying a car, as keeping the tank topped up, the tyres fresh and any contingency money for repairs is vitally important. Check out spare parts, servicing costs and other related prices before buying the car. Having to repair a car is not only an inconvenience but it can be costly, and you shouldn’t have to use a credit card for repairs as that only costs more money in the long run.

Summary

Make sure you take into consideration the top ten tips for car buying, and remember, it’s just a car. They all get you from A to B or help you move your oak furniture to your new home for instance, but some of us like to have a fancier car than last time. So, if it’s going to cost you more, then make sure you get the right car, for the right price, from the right place, and under terms that you are 100% sure about. Other than these ten tips, have fun with it and enjoy the sales process.